Background and Objectives
Persons living with dementia, including long-term care residents, and their care partners emphasize the importance of meaningful engagement and stress the need for activity and opportunities to go outdoors or offsite. Yet, little is known about getting out in this population. Here, our objectives are to (a) identify residents’ opportunities for, and experiences with, getting out; (b) understand the significance of getting out; and (c) explain influential factors.
Research Design and Methods
Guided by grounded theory methods, we analyzed qualitative data collected over a 1-year period in 4 diverse assisted living communities. We followed 33 residents with dementia and their care partners. Data include detailed fieldnotes capturing 1,560 observation hours, 114 interviews with residents (where possible), assisted living staff, family members, and other visitors, and record review.
We identified the centrality of “being out in the world and negotiating connections,” which characterizes residents’ experiences with the outside world as a process of “working out” engagement with nature, others, and the community. Being out in the world was consequential to well-being and quality of life. Most residents got out at least occasionally; some lacked opportunities. Among residents who got out, most benefitted from ensuing connections. Yet, not all experiences were positive. Being out in the world varied over time and by individual-, care convoy-, assisted living community-, and neighborhood-level factors.
Discussion and Implications
We discuss the implications of our findings for research and practice surrounding meaningful engagement among persons with dementia, including during crises such as the pandemic.