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Vacationing with Someone who has Alzheimer

Including a Loved One with Dementia on Your Vacation?

Are you getting ready to take a vacation? Are you wondering whether to take along a mom or dad who has dementia? It’s an understandable concern. Vacations, while they can be relaxing, involve getting away from familiar rooms, backyards and routines. That’s why we take them; to enjoy a break from the daily grind and experience different sights and sounds. For someone with dementia, however, a departure from routine can create anxiety which, in turn, can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease and disrupt their daily life.

And yet, a vacation that is restful and relaxing can have a therapeutic effect for individuals with dementia. So, what to do?

Part of the answer to that question lies in assessing the cognitive ability of your loved one. For individuals with mild dementia, a relaxing getaway can be enjoyable. For those in the mid stages, the disruption to their daily lives may outbalance any potential benefits. Most professionals recommend that traveling, if possible, be restricted to those individuals in earlier stages of dementia. A brief discussion with your loved one’s doctor may be helpful.

Also, consider the type of vacation you are taking. An active vacation involving multiple destinations, with tour deadlines and lots of activities is probably not a good fit for any aging parent, especially one with dementia. A relaxing respite at a seaside rental house or mountain retreat, however, can provide plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

With these things in mind, if you’re ready to move forward with your plans, there are still things you’ll need to do to optimize the vacation experience for your loved one with dementia as well as other family members and friends. Here are some tips to consider.

  • Bring essential documents. Make sure you gather together all documents and paperwork you need to support any and all potential medical or other issues that may arise. These include:
    • List of all medications/dosages
    • Doctors contact information
    • Emergency contacts back home
    • Special notes or instructions, should you need to leave your loved one in another’s care
  • Bring supplies and other personal essentials. These should include:
    • Medications (bring extra doses, if possible, in the event your stay is longer or a pill gets misplaced)
    • Personal hygiene items
    • Mobility aids
    • ID bracelets, alert necklace/watch
    • Packaged snacks in case you experience a delay in your travels
  • Bring familiar items from home. Those touches of home will have a calming effect on your loved one with dementia. Some to consider:
    • Pillows
    • Special drinking mug/cup
    • Favorite framed photos
    • Throw blankets
  • Leave a full itinerary with family/friends at home. Make sure someone back at home has all your dates, contact information and so on. That includes doctors’ numbers etc.

There are plenty of additional travel tips, including air travel with individuals who have dementia, which are available from the Alzheimer’s Association, and which you can access here.

Vacationing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease will never be 100% stress free. If you are caring for a mom or dad with dementia, you know that there are daily challenges to meet that make total relaxation hard to achieve. Make sure you are traveling with family members and/or close friends who can pitch in and help so that you can take a walk by yourself or go out with a friend in the evening. With proper planning and preparation, your vacation can be enjoyed by everyone.