Annette’s mother, Penelope, was having trouble walking due both to a recent fall and to advancing dementia. When Annette visited, she usually took Penelope on outings as a break from the skilled nursing facility where she lived. But Annette’s sister hadn’t even been able to take their mother to dinner recently, because she could no longer get Penelope into the car. Annette hated the idea that family might never again take Penelope out, but what could she do?
Paid one-on-one aides gave Penelope extra focused attention part of each day; typically, when family members arrived, they dismissed these caregivers. After all, this was family time. But Annette called ahead to find out if the aide could go on outings with her and her mother. Yes, she was told, as long as they got back before the end of the aide’s shift.
Penelope lives in a town on the eastern seaboard, little more than an hour from the shore. Annette asked a couple of the nurses and Penelope’s aide if they thought that a trip to the seashore was a good idea or not. They all agreed that it was a great idea. Annette arranged to rent a car with a higher seat that would be easier for Penelope to get into and out of. She prepared a checklist of all the things she’d need to take if she were to have Penelope out of the nursing facility for many hours.
The aide knew exactly how to help Penelope get into the car safely, and the drive to the shore was uneventful. Annette was surprised when Penelope insisted on walking, and they strolled slowly down the boardwalk until they found the perfect bench from which to watch the waves. Penelope pointed with delight to people on the sand, to beach umbrellas, and to children building sand castles. She gazed at the ocean, watching the endless play of the waves against the shore, a small, satisfied smile on her face.
When it was time for lunch, the wheelchair Annette had packed in the trunk was useful, helping them get to the restaurant a few blocks away. Penelope ate a surprisingly large amount of the meal Annette ordered for her, and then the three of them made their way back to the car, stopping for ice cream on the way home.
Annette told family members, “It was a great day!” She knew that her mother’s disabilities were severe and irreversible, and that she would never return to her former self. But Penelope could still enjoy the world outside of the care facility, and Annette realized that with a little planning and teamwork, she could still offer such experiences to her mother.