Traveling with Dementia Patients: What to Expect and Tips

young caregiver holding elder's shoulder while walking

Dementia is a terrible and very cruel illness. It is progressive which means that, while symptoms are still not bad right now, it is only a matter of time until the condition grows worse.

There is currently no cure for dementia. There are only strategies that, according to some evidence, could slow down cognitive decline among patients. However, eventually, they will lose all their memories and their ability to function normally.

Many patients who are in the late stages of dementia have to move to a facility where they will be monitored and cared for by a trained professional. A reliable senior living advisor may recommend that a patient who can no longer function on their own move to an assisted care facility to ensure their health and safety.

After a serious diagnosis, it is natural for family members to want to create lasting happy memories before the dementia of their loved one progresses any further.

It is possible for patients suffering from symptoms of dementia to travel with family and friends. Unlike those who may have illnesses that compromise their immune system as well as strength and endurance, those with dementia can still have a fantastic time at a location away from home.

It will not be as easy as before they started showing signs of illness. There will be some hardships. However, it is possible to have a great time on a holiday trip with your loved ones.

The Nearer, the Better

When traveling with a person with dementia, it will be more comfortable for them and for everyone to keep the destination as close to home as possible. Long commutes are exhausting and stressful for everyone, but more for someone who is ill.

Having frequent and different stops throughout the journey, which is what happens when you are going for a long drive, will only disorient them. Flying will be extremely difficult, too, for people with dementia. A survey from 2019 found that almost half of all dementia caregivers said that their loved ones felt overwhelmed by strange sounds and unfamiliar surroundings.   Meanwhile, almost one in four reported that their loved ones felt anxious in crowded places. Spending time in an airport and then on a plane, where there are hundreds of people and different loud, unfamiliar sounds, will be overwhelming. It will only trigger their symptoms and may lead to aggression. Keeping the journey close to home will be the kindest and easiest arrangement for everyone.

Pick a Familiar Destination

For people with dementia, a familiar place can bring pleasant memories back. Your loved one may benefit from going to a place that they know rather than a foreign tourist destination.

While, for relatively healthy people, going to an unfamiliar place is thrilling, those with dementia may feel confused and scared. They may become upset which will only ruin the trip for everyone involved.

Dementia affects a person’s brain and how it processes information. So, patients who have it tend to cling to their established memories and knowledge as the illness steadily eats away their cognition. Things that are familiar to them ground them. When they are placed in an unfamiliar environment, no matter how many times you explain to them that you are on a vacation, their brain may not exactly understand the reasoning behind it.

It could help them to feel at ease if you go to a destination that, in the past, you have frequented.

Avoid Overstimulation
senior being walked in a wheelchair by her wife

You understandably want to see all sights and try all activities at your destination, but there should be time for your loved one who is suffering from dementia to rest throughout the day. While you can have an itinerary, try to space them out rather than go to spots at a time.

Moreover, choose activities that are not overwhelming. There should not be big crowds or loud sounds. Walking by the beach, for example, or having a picnic in a park are pleasurable but relaxing activities that are unlikely to trigger symptoms. Save the theme parks and bar-hopping for another trip.

Experts also recommend scheduling activities during the time of the day when your loved one is most aware. Their caregiver would know when they are least likely to feel confused and panic.

Be prepared to go home earlier than expected, or spend more time in your hotel room. This trip should be fun for everyone, including family members who have dementia. They cannot control their illness or their symptoms. Keeping them safe and comfortable should be everyone’s priority.

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