How to care for a relative with dementia while travelling

How to care for a relative with dementia while travelling
  • Discover how to care for someone with dementia while travelling with our expert Q&A.

Rob Martin, Head of Care Quality at Anchor, answers the questions most frequently asked by relatives taking loved ones living with dementia on a much needed break.

There are more than 100 types of dementia which have a variety of symptoms, and people can be living with different levels of the condition so it is always important to check in with your loved one's GP as a first point of call before travelling. As there are varying types and levels, some of the below points might not be applicable to everyone.

Q: We have a family trip planned and are unsure whether to take my mother with us. She has been living with dementia for four years now and we want to make sure she is in the best place.

A: This depends on who your mother feels most comfortable with. If she will be travelling with the person or people she is most comfortable around, the more relaxed she will be, and the more she can enjoy her time away. If she is happiest around you, then taking her along with you may prove to be a better option than her staying at home with someone who is likely to make her feel anxious.

Q: My partner and I have booked a city break with his parents. It's the first time we've all been away since his mother was diagnosed with dementia - is there anything in particular that I need to think about when I'm packing, as my father-in-law will require help?

A: Firstly, be sure to allow space for the essentials such as medications and medical information, as well as activities for the journey. It may be a good idea to take layers of clothing. Some people living with dementia can often feel chilly when it is quite hot so it's important they feel comfortable whatever the weather.

Q: Do you have any advice for making the journey through the airport less stressful for my partner who is living with dementia?

A: It may be worth booking a day-time flight to ensure that both you and your partner have had sufficient rest beforehand. Remember that airports have staff on hand who are more than happy to escort travellers around the airport - why not phone ahead and see if there is anyone who can meet you at the door?

Q: Last time I took my dad, who is living with dementia, on holiday abroad, tackling the flight was the most difficult part - how can I prevent that from happening this time, or should I avoid flying altogether?

A: It is important to take into account which mode of travel will suit your dad best as it can vary from person to person. There may be alternatives that could be more comfortable and result in less anxiety, however travelling by plane needn't be avoided. Taking something familiar with him which he can hold, touch and smell during the trip could provide comfort in a disorientating environment. Electronic tablets are also proven to be calming, engaging and aid reminiscence for people living with dementia. Taking one along on holiday with some headphones could help keep your dad connected and engaged throughout the whole holiday, not just the flight.

Q: I've got the journey sorted but what can I do once we actually get on holiday to ensure my partner doesn't get anxious about the change in routine?

A: A change in location doesn't have to mean a change in routine. If you're going somewhere with good weather, make use of the great outdoors, get some fresh air and go for a walk. It's worth bearing in mind that for some living with dementia, a new place can put them out of their comfort zone. Plan ahead before you book a place to stay on your trip; take careful considerations into the colour contrast between the walls, floors and hand-rails of the accommodation, making sure they are easily distinguished from one another. Avoid rooms that are painted floor-to-ceiling white as these can often result in discomfort. Similar to colour contracts around the accommodation, splitting up similar coloured foods at mealtimes where possible helps to avoid confusion.