The Hardy Group waving

Heather's top tips for dementia-friendly group outings

Heather, who has metabolic dementia, shares 8 things to consider when planning a day trip for people with dementia, Learn why dementia-friendly tourist locations are so important for Heather and hundreds of others living with the condition.

Heather Roberts is an avid traveller. She has always enjoyed taking trips and visiting different places with her husband, Dave.

But at age 51, Heather received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. She has since learned she has metabolic dementia.

Soon after receiving her diagnosis, she and Dave booked a trip to New Zealand.

Once Dave retired, he and Heather set up a peer support activity for people affected by dementia in their community. They held regular meetings and organised monthly outings that attracted over 100 people at a time.  

The Hardy Group brings together people affected by dementia, aged from under 60 to over 90, in the surrounding area of Derby.

They pursue activities that are specifically designed to break down social isolation and improve well-being.

The group has travelled to numerous museums, parks, locations and attractions throughout the UK, such as Black County Museum, Chatsworth Gardens and Melton Mowbray, to name just a few. 

But Heather and Dave agree that successful trips for people with dementia are dependent on tourism businesses taking steps to become more dementia-friendly.

Heather and Dave Roberts

Heather, an Alzheimer's Society Ambassador, and her husband Dave help to support others affected by dementia

Before taking a trip

A lot of the group's time is spent looking at potential venues to ensure they are suitable.

They consider places depending on the level of interest from their members. They also look at cost, travel times and health and safety.

The Hardy Group appreciate when businesses spend time to chat with them about their requirements and are welcoming to making the adjustments they require, pre-booking. 

Dave says, 'Our experiences have almost without exception been very good. However, we do think improvements can be made.'

8 ways to have a worry-free travel experience as a group

Heather and Dave list important things to consider when planning a group trip for people with dementia.

1. Be open to suggestions from others

Talk to your group members and listen to their suggestions on where they would like to go. Some members may say where they have been before and feel a visit by the group would be a good idea.

2. Make sure it's accessible

Many of our members have physical problems. This means we have to make sure places are accessible to wheelchairs and don't have too many steps.

Checking this usually involves using the internet, speaking to the venue or, in a small number of instances, visiting to carry out a full risk assessment. A couple of visits have had to be cancelled specifically because of this.

  • Top tip for businesses

    Make connections with disabled access transport providers. Our coaches are conventional with up to five steps to both get on and off.  Our attempts to hire wheelchair coaches has proved beyond us.  

    Our group need a disabled access coach all day. Most providers either have regular commitments throughout the day or are just unwilling to let the vehicles out for up to ten hours at a time.

3.  Check for group discounts

We always ask for a carers discount and it is rare that we don't get a substantial one.

Some venues, like Chatsworth House, will even negotiate further when they learn we are a dementia charity.

4. Secure deposits in advance

We generally prebook with a venue over the phone, confirm by email and pay whatever deposits are required.  

There are not many venues that can cope with 100 people turning up at the same time unannounced! 

  • Top tip for businesses

    There needs to be more advertising for buggies and mobility scooters; knowing this in advance would be helpful so they can also be pre-booked. The availability of this service is not always obvious until we get there, and buggy numbers are often limited.

5. Don't compromise on customer service

Friendly customer service is vital to us if we are to avoid stress and anxiety amongst our members.

It is rare in our experience that we get poor service, but as far as exemplars are concerned the National Trust is excellent. They make pre-booking easy and take our word for the number of carers and National Trust members. This makes agreeing an entry cost straight-forward.

A member of National Trust team will often come onto the coach to give an introductory talk to our members. They'll answer questions and give out guides before people get off. the coach The same is also true for Chatsworth House. 

  • Top tip for businesses

    Members of staff can learn more about dementia by becoming a Dementia Friend. Organisations can join the Alzheimer's Society Dementia Friends initiative. They'll get access to resources and information aimed at helping staff understand dementia and how it may affect customers or employees.

6. Prepare simple signposting

If our trip covers a large geographical area, we provide a simple map with the coach pick-up and drop-off locations marked.  We always make sure people know where there are toilets and refreshments.

We also give out an itinerary so members know where to be and when. Our volunteers will buddy up with the most vulnerable and keep their eyes peeled for our members and check-in to see if all is well.

All of our members wear lanyards. On the back of their badge is a list of emergency telephone numbers to ring if lost or in difficulty.

  • Top tip for businesses

    Clear signage is obviously a benefit to people with dementia, but it is not something we are made aware of when planning and organising trips. If you have dementia-friendly signage at your location, this is something you can advertise.

7. Consider noise levels and quiet spaces

Because of the nature of our membership, we avoid places that are likely to be very busy or noisy. We have yet to go to a venue where you can't find some peace and quiet

We always take school holiday dates into account when putting our plan together.

8. See whether toilet facilities are suitable

Toilet facilities have been a problem. Limited availability of disabled facilities allowing a carer to go in with the person they care for can cause queues and frustration.

The worst issue is where a toilet has multiple exits and entries.

We have had two instances where a female carer has stood outside the gents waiting for the person they care for only for us to find that they have left by another exit.

At Blenheim Palace this resulted in a full scale "manhunt" by volunteers and staff to find our missing person who was missing for a whole hour!

  • Top tip for businesses

    It's frustrating when venues that think it makes sense to put the disabled toilet inside the single sex toilets, making it difficult for a husband or wife carer to accompany the person they care for. Our volunteers have to step in and help, if they are available. There need to be more accessible toilets recognising that carers and people who require care are frequently opposite sexes.
Dementia-friendly tourism guide for businesses

This free resource by Visit Britain is full of tips and advice for all businesses involved with tourism in the UK

Download now
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