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Traveling with Dementia

Taking a loved one with dementia on vacation
Traveling with Dementia

Summers in Massachusetts are wonderful. After months of ice and snow, the change in seasons finally allows us to enjoy long-awaited rituals. For many people, one of these is a summer vacation.

When you are caring for someone with dementia, the thought of a vacation may be wonderful, but the actual reality of the experience can be stressful and complicated. Caregiving is a 24/7 job wherever you are.  Dementia doesn’t go away like some of the other worries we leave at home while on vacation. In fact, the change in routine can make symptoms even worse. 

If you decide that travelling is important and that it brings value to you and your care partner’s life, the following suggestions may help make the process easier and safer for both of you:

  1. Travel with more information than you think you need.  Bring copies of medication lists, doctor’s names/numbers, a photo of your loved one, copies of medical proxies/emergency contacts.
  2. Register your care partner in the Alzheimer Association’s Safe Return program, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer's or a related dementia.
  3. Plan everything in advance. This includes meals, lodging, transportation and activities. It is better to know in advance what some of your challenges may be than to be blindsided in the moment. 
  4. Maintain your current routine and structure as much as possible while you are away.
  5. Schedule a dress rehearsal. Go for a day trip that includes traveling, activities and meals.  This will give you an opportunity to practice some of the challenges you may face on your actual trip.
  6. Bring along another family member and/or a professional caregiver.
  7. Expect the unexpected.  Even with all of the planning you will do, something will happen that you could not have anticipated.  1) Accept this in advance and 2) try to keep a sense of humor, it is what it is.

If the prospect of all the planning feels overwhelming, you may decide that travelling with your care partner is not a viable option. Additionally, you as a full-time caregiver may need a break. An occasional vacation from caregiving is a crucial part of maintaining the ability to provide care over the long term. It is something caregivers do for themselves that positively impacts their care partner, both in the short and long-run.

In these cases, look for memory care communities that offer something called “Respite Care.” These are temporary assisted living stays – typically ranging between several days and several weeks.  The benefit to you is peace of mind as well as the chance to recharge.  Your care partner enjoys their own vacation in a community designed specifically to support persons with dementia; a win-win for both of you.



Memory Care at Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles 

NewBridge on the Charles offers the Gilda and Alfred A. Slifka Memory Care Assisted Living Residences to seniors with early stage and mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease and/or a related dementia. The Memory Care Assisted Living Residences at NewBridge on the Charles provides a personalized and meaningful assisted living experience for residents based on the history, preferences and goals of each individual. Short-term stays now available. 

Learn more about Memory Care at NewBridge

Make an appointment for Memory Disorders Testing

Tara Fleming Caruso, MA, LMHC's picture

About the Blogger

Collaborative Care Advisor at NewBridge on the Charles

Tara serves as the collaborative care advisor for the NewBridge campus, making her an important resource for each of our residents and their families. Tara helps each senior moving to NewBridge both understand and access the variety of supports our continuum of care offers so each can live their best life possible. Tara brings almost 25 years of elder care experience to this role, including developing an expressive therapy program in a skilled nursing facility, serving as a program manager at a dementia-specific assisted living, and working at NewBridge on the Charles since 2009. She is a...

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My mother is 80 years old and has dementia. She hates doctors, hospitals and anything medical. She had stopped taking her high blood pressure medication, she is seeing people, she is angry at my dad and makes up stories about him. My dad is worried that she will hurt him when he is in bed because she is up all hours of the night. My dad finally got her into her doctor for a flu shot and talked to her doctor about what is going on and the doctor told him to call the customer service number on the back of his health insurance card!! We have no place to go. She will not go willingly. Does she have to hurt my dad for someone to see her? Everywhere I have called they say it has to be voluntary. We are at the end of our rope on what to do?????
Hi Linda, Thank you for leaving a comment on the blog. I'm so sorry to hear of the emotional pain your family has been going through lately. Unfortunately, due to HIIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations, we are unable to provide specific medical advice. In your email inbox you will find our attached ebook, "You and Your Aging Parents" which may prove helpful, as well as links to our explanation of a geriatric specialist, which may be a good next course of action for your mother's care. All the best, Erica Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media

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