Travelling & Holidays With Dementia

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Article by 

Maree McCabe

Living with dementia does not mean you cannot travel. Travelling can be stressful and challenging, but it can also be a very rewarding experience. Planning ahead can help ensure you have the best possible experience.

If you are a first-time traveller, planning with a trusted and recommended travel agent may be a good idea. Booking a holiday package, with many of the travel arrangements prebooked, can help reduce the stress of travelling.

ravelling with Seniors with Dementia

It’s also worth exploring online travel forums and blogs for travel advice specific to your chosen location.

Being aware of capabilities and possible challenges can help with your decision about going on holiday and can assist you in deciding where you want to go and what you might do whilst you are travelling.

Things to consider before planning your holiday:

  • How does your experience of living with dementia impact on you?
  • Can you complete daily living activities on your own or with the help of a family member or friend?
  • How will you respond to changes in routine and environment?
  • What is the capacity of your travelling companion to support you without the assistance of other usual support networks?
  • Can you or your travel companion manage well if a crisis arises?
  • Are you, or the person travelling with you, prepared to adjust travel plans should your needs change mid-trip?

Signs that travelling and holidays may not be suitable for you:

  • If you regularly feel disorientation, confusion or agitation, even in familiar settings.
  • If you regularly feel that you want to go back home, even when you are away from home on short visits.
  • If you have incontinence problems.
  • If you are unable to walk safely or for longer distances.
  • If you feel angry or anxious when your needs are not met, which sometimes causes you to have physical or emotional responses.
  • If you have an existing predisposition to falls or a high risk of falling.
  • If you have other unstable medical conditions.
  • If you are unsure whether travelling is a good idea, seek the advice of your healthcare professional.

Some things to consider when planning your holiday:

Medical Clearance

Consult with your doctor to see if your travel plans are suitable for your situation.

Some airlines, cruise ship operators and insurance providers may ask for written medical clearance from your doctor.

Check whether you can get a letter from your doctor for the prescription medications that you need to take on your trip. You may need to purchase extra medication if you plan to be away for an extended time.

Time and Duration

  • The time of year, season and duration of the trip are all important factors.
  • Consider trialling a short domestic holiday before making a longer or international trip.
  • Avoid travelling during peak travel seasons, such as Christmas.
  • Be prepared to allow plenty of time for everything.
  • Plan to travel at the time of day when you are usually at your best.

Book in Advance

Booking ahead can help ensure that accessible accommodation, special assistance and transport options are available. It also provides you with time to prepare for your trip.

Communications

  • If you are travelling overseas, explore options for a mobile phone plan with international roaming and save important telephone numbers to your mobile phone.
  • Download and practise using messenger apps, so you can easily access your support networks while you are away.

Medication

  • Pack a first aid kit. Include all medications you may need while you are away.
  • Keep medication in carry-on luggage in case checked luggage is lost or delayed.
  • Bring prescriptions and additional medication. This can be helpful if your medication gets lost, runs out, or if you decide to extend your trip.
  • Prepare a list of all medications and dosages in case you become unwell.

Identification

  • Consider wearing a disease identification bracelet and having some form of identification on you at all times.
  • Keep the details of your accommodation and a contact number with you when holidaying in places unfamiliar to you.
  • If you’re travelling in a nonEnglish speaking country, consider making cue cards with “dementia” printed in the local languages.

Travel Insurance

  • Travel insurance is very important. It can cover losses, damage and some unexpected costs that may occur during your travels.
  • Some insurance company guidelines may require you to disclose a dementia diagnosis.
  • Be sure to read the policy carefully to ensure it covers exactly what you need.

While on holidays

New environments can sometimes be confusing and difficult to adapt to. There are strategies you can use to prevent or manage challenges.

Maintain Routine

  • Try to keep mealtimes, bedtimes, and medication schedules as close to your home routine as possible to help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Writing the routine down might be helpful for you or your travel companion to have something to refer to.

Travel Tips for Your Companion

  • Ensure the person with dementia is well informed of where you are going and what you will be doing. Try not to overload them with complicated or excessive information.
  • Having your itinerary on hand for reference can be helpful.

Know the Warning Signs

  • Learn to recognise the warning signs of anxiety and agitation in yourself.
  • Expect increased confusion, agitation and behavioural changes during your trip and have a plan for managing this.

Enjoy

  • Holidays are a fantastic opportunity to make memories and have fun. Take lots of photos and notes, as these will be useful to support reminiscing when you return home.
  • Keep your sense of humour when things don’t go to plan. Holidays always have highs and lows. They will be part of your experience.
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