Written by Active Minds on Monday the 22nd of May 2017.
Going on holiday is important for one’s general wellbeing. It’s a chance to recharge your batteries, spend quality time with friends or family and perhaps experience different climates, cultures and cuisines. The same is true for someone living with dementia, they need and deserve time away from home, to relax and unwind.
However, for someone with dementia, holidays can be particularly stressful due to the unknown environment and bustling crowds. But that is no reason to avoid the situation all together, it’s just important to be prepared for the journey and the holiday in advance.
It’s worth spending the time thoroughly researching the chosen holiday destination. That’s not to say that some places are a no-go, it’s just to be aware that certain environments may be more likely to cause a person living with dementia stress, for example, a large resort will have more people. If you are able to, it may be worth booking out of season, as this will mean that the crowds will be smaller.
You may also want to start to make your daily activity plans prior to your arrival. This will help you gain an understanding of what is on offer at the destination, what activities your loved one living with dementia may enjoy, possible places to visit which are quiet and relaxing, and perhaps any dementia/disability friendly venues as well.
Similar to researching the destination, you should also thoroughly research your chosen accommodation. For example, hotels with lots of corridors may be confusing for a person living with dementia. If possible, speak to the staff before your arrival, ensuring that they have an understanding of you and your family’s needs. This will also give you the chance to request any extras that your loved one might need, such as a mattress protector if your loved one often loses control of their bladder during the night.
If possible, consider taking your holiday in an area, home or abroad, where a friend or family member lives. This means that you will not only have their local knowledge at your disposal, but for a person living with dementia, staying with people they already know may reduce their anxiety.
Create a checklist of all the essentials you need to pack for your trip. This should include any necessary medication, up-to-date medical information, emergency contacts and photocopies of important legal documents.
Ensure you have an easy-to-carry piece of hand luggage packed with all the essential items your loved one living with dementia may need whilst travelling. This should include; medications, travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water and snacks.
Make sure anyone who is travelling with you, including your loved one with dementia, is carrying copies of any important documents, including emergency contacts and the travel itinerary, with the address and contact details of all accommodation.
Whatever method you use to travel, whether it be plane, train or car, the experience can be exhausting for anyone who is living with dementia. Make sure someone is with your loved one at all times, and able to help ease any agitation they may be feeling.
You may want to inform staff prior to your arrival, so they are on hand to help guide you and keep your journey as calm and stress-free as possible. It is also worth making a mental note of what your loved one with dementia is wearing and carry a recent photo of your loved one with you, in case they do get separated from you. This will make it much easier for members of the transport staff to find them.
Also, give yourself lots and lots of time. Especially if you are travelling via plane, the queues, the people and the check-ins can be overwhelming. Where possible, make sure anyone living with dementia can take their time and not be rushed, as this will only add to their stress and agitation. Leaving yourself plenty of time to negotiate all the various queues and waiting times will help make your journey easier.