DEMENTIA SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANISATIONS JULIE COLE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

Have Dementia: Will Travel

For many of us, holidays are an important means of  recharging our batteries.   However trips away for a person with dementia can seem counter to advice to stick to a regular routine.   And it is true that, some people, especially in the later stages of the disease are happiest if they remain in their familiar setting.   Yet people with dementia and those close to them can still travel successfully with a little  forefront.  Here’s some thoughts to help those breaks from home remain as enjoyable and stress free as possible.

  • Be prepared!  Make sure there is adequate travel insurance in place.  Think about how ongoing and emergency medical needs can be met in your destination.
  • Make airlines, hotels and travel companies aware of the needs of the person in advance of travel.  Consider whether a specialist holiday company who understand the requirements of people with dementia may be a better option than independent travel or a standard package.
  • As someone who supports a person with dementia think about how you prepare them for the trip.  For instance, will making them aware of plans in advance reassure or worry them?
  • Be prepared for a little more disorientation and confusion than normal.   There may be more scope for a person to get lost so plan for this eventuality.  Making sure that they carry adequate ID is an essential.  Tracking technology so that their whereabouts is known is an option.
  • Who is going away with the person?  Will they help or hinder them?   What does each person expect from their time away.  Are they there to relax or do they see the trip as a time where the needs of the person with dementia predominates?   If there is a larger party is each person’s role in supporting the person with dementia clear before the trip?  Incorrect assumptions about this can be a massive source of conflict and have the potential to ruin a holiday and affect relationships thereafter.
  • Although adventurous travel is not out of the question it may be better to stick to well loved accommodation in places that are familiar to the person.  A family motorhome or caravan that is a little home from home can be great.  Or could the same room or pitch be booked on a regular basis in a hotel or caravan park?
  • Take plenty of pictures and bring back souvenirs as tools for reminiscence.
  • What is the best time of the year to go away?  Who is travelling with the person may restrict choice particularly if there are school age children in the party.  Quieter out of season breaks may have  advantages, for example staff in resorts or hotels may have more time to be attentive to needs.
  • Think about whether the destination meets the sensory and occupational needs of the person.  Could a certain location not provide sufficient stimulation or conversely be overwhelming?
  • How much time do you spend away?  Some people might only tolerate a short break.  For just a few days away from home may lend them no time to acclimatise themselves and enjoy a different environment.
  • If a person is happy in a daily routine how can this be managed as far as possible whilst they are away?
  • There may come a time when the person with dementia no longer finds travel a rewarding experience.  Their need for routine and familiarity might outweigh their lust for change and adventure.   How can the needs of those that support them to have a break be met?

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