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Strategies from others for when you are out and about

3.9 Strategies from others for when you are out and about

People with dementia share their strategies to overcome difficulties when out and about

I keep getting lost, including inside buildings

  • If going to a new place where you think you will get lost, prepare by getting a map or floorplan and planning the route beforehand.
  • If you are going into a big shopping centre, take a photo with your phone of the entrance where you entered so you can find your way out.
  • If you are still driving, take a photo of where you parked your car.
  • Ask friends or family you are with to take the lead on navigation.
  • Ask others for directions if you are unsure.
  • Make sure you carry your personal details (address and key contact numbers) in your wallet or handbag.
  • If you have a smart phone, download a map app like Google Maps and practise using it to navigate while walking or driving. Try the “live view” instructions which use your camera to point the way you need to walk.
  • If you have a smart phone, set up a ‘ride share’ App like Uber and program it with your home address. If you get lost, the App can use your phone to find your location, call a driver to that location and that driver will take you home.
  • Consider wearing a tracking advice that provides information to a family member, friend or monitoring service, who can support you if you are lost or worried. This is available through smart watches, or a self contained tracking pendant/watch that works independently of a mobile phone.


I lose track during conversations

  • Where possible, plan to have appointments or larger social events when you are at your best (e.g. in the morning). If this is not possible, then try and make sure that you are rested the day of the event.
  • For important conversations (e.g. medical appointments, or phone calls to make arrangements) prepare a list of questions or discussion points. Ask if you can record important conversations on your phone so you can listen to them later or write notes.
  • If you’re in a place where several conversations are happening, focus all of your attention on one conversation. If needed move the conversation a bit further way from the other people so it’s easier to focus.
  • Socialise in small groups (e.g. up to six people). One-to-one works better for some people.
  • If you lose track part way through, ask the other person to repeat themselves.
  • If you’re not following but don’t believe it’s an important conversation for you to follow, then nod and smile.
  • If you need a break, take a break e.g. go to the bathroom, or walk elsewhere to have a rest from the conversation.


I worry I might make a mistake when out

  • Try reminding yourself that everyone makes mistakes at times – not just people living with dementia.
  • Spend time with those people you feel comfortable with and who won’t make you feel bad if you do make a mistake.
  • Ask someone to act as your ‘buddy’ when out. Ask them to support you and help you if they think you are going to make a mistake.
  • Accept that you might make mistakes, but that most people won’t think much of these anyway.
  • Decide that going out to do things you enjoy outweighs the small risk of doing something embarrassing when out.


I can’t remember people’s names

  • Refresh your memory of people’s faces and names before going to an event. For example put together a print out or a small photo album with photos and the names of those you see regularly – you can look through these before going out. Even a list of names is helpful if you don’t have photos.
  • If you use social media (e.g. Facebook) you can use this as a reminder of faces and names. Similarly, messaging apps such as WhatsApp often include a picture of the person. Browse your contact lists before going to an event.
  • Ask a person you often attend social activities with to remind you of people’s names.
  • Ask the person you’ve forgotten to remind you what their name is. “I know who you are, and I’m really sorry but I’ve forgotten your name. Can you please remind me?”


I have trouble finding the right words

  • Practise saying the names of items, events and people you have trouble remembering. You may keep a list of words that you commonly forget, and practise those.
  • If during a conversation you can’t find the right word, talk around the meaning of the word. The person you are talking to might be able to fill in the word, and this way the conversation flow can continue.


I get more frustrated or upset in unexpected situations

  • Be aware of when this is happening, take a deep breath to try to stay calm, and walk away if you need to.
  • Beforehand, tell your friends and family that if the unexpected happens, you want them to prompt you to stay calm and help you find the right response, but that you don’t want them to take over.
  • Beforehand, ask a trusted friend or family member to step in if the unexpected happens and respond to the situation.


Consider using the “I have dementia card”

If you are out in public, you may need to let other people (for example the bus driver, cafe staff or receptionist) know that you, or the person you support, has dementia.

You could simply tell them and state the sort of support you need, but some people find carrying an assistance card helpful. This is especially the case if you need more time to manage a situation, such as:

  • handing over the correct amount of money.
  • organising follow-up appointments.
  • identifying a bus stop.

The card discretely alerts people that you may require their help and support. You can make your own card or download and print the I have dementia card.


Try some strategies

  • Re-read this page and write down some strategies that you think might be helpful to you. Then try them out.
  • Print and use the I have dementia card.