Traveling with Loved Ones and Going Solo

July 29, 2014

Are you planning a vacation, and feeling anxious over whether to include your loved one suffering from dementia? The good news is that there are advantages to both scenarios, provided you are realistic in your expectations (hello, working vacation) and you allow yourself time for proper planning. Bringing loved ones along who’ve been medically cleared for travel can lead to highly rewarding experiences for both of you. Here are some key considerations:

  • Seek out calming and familiar environments you can control. Dementia patients can suffer from extreme anxiety when confronted with unfamiliar or chaotic surroundings. If Dad’s never flown before, now’s probably not the time to introduce air travel. Avoid big cities and peak holiday travel times. Family gatherings held in familiar surroundings can stimulate comforting memories for your loved one. Cruise trips can also be a great option, offering consistent daily routines and surroundings, as well as opportunities to streamline and simplify things like wardrobe and meal choices.
  • Plan carefully and be flexible.  Build in opportunities for help from travel staff along the way (curb-side check-in with wheelchair assistance, for example). Allow for plenty of extra time in your itinerary – getting around will invariably take longer with your loved one! Consider a fail-safe travel package that would allow you to return early without penalty, should your companion feel ill or need to return home. Above all, be flexible and ready to roll with the punches when inevitable snafus arise.

What if the person you care for isn’t up to the trip you’re planning, or you desperately need some time to rest or focus on other family members? Many communities offer high-quality respite programs that allow you to leave your loved one with experts you can trust to provide continuity of care, while giving you that opportunity. They may even enjoy it enough to warrant some repeat visits. What to know before you go:

  • Plan ahead. Most facilities will require an intake assessment in advance of the stay, involving the submission of up-to-date medical records and medication schedules.
  • Ask the right questions. How are the care providers screened? What is the training and level of experience of the providers, and are they compatible with your loved one’s needs? What are the service costs, and how are payments handled?
  • Plan an on-site visit before you commit. Observe the staff and how they interact with care participants. Try and imagine your loved one there, and trust your instincts either way.
  • Explore all coverage options. If you’re sure insurance won’t cover respite care, there are excellent online resources to help you learn about potential subsidy options.

The most important thing in all this? You deserve that vacation, no matter what! So take some extra time to think through the best option for you, for the one you care for, for your family … and enjoy!