Travel and vacations can be enriching experiences at any age, and developing dementia doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy traveling. However, it's essential to plan ahead before traveling with a loved one living with dementia to make the trip as fun, safe and relaxing as possible.
While traveling to an exotic overseas location can be an exciting experience, it could be confusing or disorienting for someone living with dementia. Different time zones, climates and languages can all cause disruption to comforting daily routines. Instead, consider visiting a destination already familiar to your loved one where they can enjoy the food, daily schedule and activities they're used to.
It's also important to ensure that any destination you choose has easy access to the care your loved one might need. For example, it's wise to choose a destination within a short distance of a hospital when traveling with a senior living with dementia.
Although long journeys can be stressful for people with dementia, a little planning can make it a more enjoyable experience for both of you. First, consider which transport method will be most comfortable for your loved one. For example, they may be happier traveling in the familiar surroundings of your car than hopping on a plane or boat.
It's also wise to consider what time of day is best for your loved one to travel. Some people living with dementia feel more tired or agitated at certain times. Planning your travel for when your loved one feels their best can help reduce travel-related stress.
You may both find it easier to visit somewhere within an easy driving distance of the Autumn View Gardens assisted living community in Creve Coeur. The Mark Twain National Forest is just a 90-minute drive from the community and offers beautiful, calming outdoor spaces to enjoy together. It's also wise to plan regular breaks on longer journeys to keep your loved one as comfortable as possible.
Researching and planning a suitable itinerary can help you avoid vacation stress for your loved one. Before you leave, consider searching for attractions and activities that suit their needs and preferences. It's also advisable to check accessibility if your family member has mobility needs and contact attractions to find out their quieter times to avoid distressing crowds.
It's best to avoid overscheduling your itinerary. Overloading your loved one with a packed schedule of activities could cause them to feel overwhelmed. Ensure that they have plenty of quiet time to unwind, relax and sleep if they need to.
It's important to ensure you have everything you need to keep your loved one safe and comfortable on your trip. For example, it can be helpful to pack a bag with their favorite snacks and drinks, clean clothes and comforting objects or activities to reassure them if they feel stressed or upset. Taking the bag with you wherever you go when you're on vacation means you'll be prepared for any unexpected events.
It's also essential to pack any medications your loved one needs, including their medication schedule and up-to-date medical details. The health care team at Autumn View Gardens can explain your loved one's medication regime to you and ensure you have what you need to manage their medical needs away from their assisted living apartment.
If you're staying in a hotel, it's a good idea to inform them of your loved one's specific needs before your arrival. The hotel staff can prepare to offer any necessary assistance and ensure that your room is suitable and accessible if you inform them ahead of time. It may also be helpful to call attractions, restaurants or any other places you plan to visit to see if they can accommodate any special requirements. For example, some eateries might be able to offer a table in a quieter area if your friend or relative struggles with noisy environments.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, a change of environment can cause some people with dementia to become confused and disoriented. This confusion could lead to wandering, which can be particularly dangerous in an unfamiliar area.
Enrolling your loved one in a wandering response service like the Alzheimer's Association's MedicAlert with Wandering Support plan can help keep them safe on vacation and in their assisted living community. This nationwide service alerts emergency response services if your loved one goes missing and follows up until someone locates them. It also provides access to the person's crucial medical information to help responders provide safe, appropriate care.
Things can go wrong on any vacation, but it's particularly important to plan for unexpected events when you're traveling with someone living with dementia. It's wise to purchase comprehensive travel insurance for your trip in case something disrupts your travel plans.
It's also a good idea to make contingency plans for what you'll do if your loved one gets sick or agitated. Involving people with dementia in this planning can help reassure them, and they may have helpful ideas that you didn't think of. The memory care team at the Autumn View Gardens assisted living community can also help you plan how to care for your loved one in an emergency.