Places to visit in the Triangle if you are a caregiver for a loved one

Imagine being confined to your home, day after day. This is a reality for many older adults and those who care for them.

The same four walls may be the only environment they see for days quite literally boxing them in, leaving them isolated and depressed. If you are a "care partner" for an individual who is dependent upon you to meet their needs, a change of pace could give you both a much-needed mental and emotional boost.

When you're already bogged down with demanding responsibilities of caregiving, the idea of going out on a little adventure can be daunting, even overwhelming. But with a little bit of planning, you can actually enjoy this time with your loved one. In this two-part series we are going to look at a few locations in the Triangle area that will hopefully be a home run for you and your loved one! But before we begin, let's talk preparation.


Preparation is the key to any trip out. Spontaneity is more difficult if your loved one is very dependent upon you physically and mentally. Your should vet the activity to ensure it's suitable for the elderly person in your care. For example, you may need to consider the amount of walking involved, if the place you are going is flat or has hills to climb, if there is wheelchair access, parking nearby, toilet facilities, etc.

Before leaving home, ensure you are prepared for anything:

  • Pack all necessary medications for the day. Always take an extended supply, just in case you are still out when a dose is due.
  • Take appropriate clothing. Remember, older adults tend to be chillier. So if you are planning an indoor activity, pack a light sweater or jacket.
  • Pack something to eat and drink, just in case you get delayed
  • Expect the unexpected!

Remember to have realistic expectations. Things are going to be different from what they once were. Try to celebrate the process versus the actual outcome. If you arrive at your destination with the idea that it is more about providing a good experience for your loved one, you will have new things to talk about and hopefully a memorable experience. As Erma Bombeck said, we must find "bless in the mess."

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

"Art is a powerful tool for people with dementia because the art is right in front of them, right there in the moment," said Jessica Ruhle, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

"A successful conversation does not require remembering or calling up past knowledge. Instead, visitors simply relate to the art they see."

Opened in 2005, the Nasher Museum promotes engagement with the visual arts for the Duke and Raleigh-Durham communities. They present innovative and accessible collections, exhibits, publications, and programs that are intellectually stimulating and enrich individuals' lives.

We had an amazing tour of their "Reflections" program, which provides art therapy through free museum tours to individuals living with Alzheimer's disease, and their caregivers and families. These are guided discussions through the galleries, as well as live musical performances or hands-on art experiences. The tours offer people with memory loss and their families the opportunity to enjoy art in the moment and to engage with the current exhibitions using multiple senses, and they allow individuals with dementia to openly discuss new ideas and socialize with others.

"Reflections" is free to all participants, but space is limited, and individuals must sign up for the tour in advance. You can find out more information about this program by clicking here.

RDU Observation Park

Popular with kids of all ages, RDU's Observation Park provides sweeping views of RDU's 10,000-foot runway and is located near the Air Traffic Control Tower. Spend hours watching planes and listening to pilot-to-tower communications via audio speakers on the elevated observation platform.

Observation Park is open from sunrise to sunset every day. The park features free parking, restrooms, an elevated observation platform, the ability to hear communication between pilots and the tower, a picnic area, play area, educational placards, and a grassy knoll. If you are looking for a multi-generational activity to share with your care receiver, children, and grandchildren this is a WIN.

Who doesn't enjoy watching planes take off and land? Aviation is truly an amazing feat of engineering and watching the planes can spur many amazing conversations about flights once taken, times served in wars, and adventures to be had. For more information about the RDU Observation Park please follow this link.

If you find yourself in a caregiving situation and would like to connect with other caregivers in our area for support, please join the online community of caregivers found here moderated by our ABC11 Influencer Nicole M. Clagett.
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