Traveling can benefit individuals living with dementia or another type of memory impairment. While daily routines provide necessary structure, breaking away from the everyday norm once in a while offers mental and sensory stimulation as well as encourages physical activity. In addition, traveling gives you an opportunity to create meaningful moments and spend quality time with your loved one.
However, planning a trip with someone living with dementia while managing their care can be overwhelming. Getting your loved one out of their routine can cause agitation or confusion, but the benefits may outweigh the challenges.
Our Community Senior Life (CSL) team offers memory care and other senior living services throughout Alabama and is sharing tips to help you plan a trip when traveling with a loved one with dementia.
Choose a Familiar or Meaningful Destination
When planning a trip with someone living with dementia, it may be a good idea to choose a location that is familiar to them (if possible). For example, opt to travel somewhere you always went on family vacations growing up or take a trip to your loved one’s hometown.
This not only helps limit confusion, but it could also stimulate your loved one’s memories.
Consider Your Loved One’s “Best Times”
If your loved one experiences symptoms of sundowning, then choosing to do most of your traveling in the evening is not the best plan. In this instance, hitting the road in the morning and traveling throughout the day would be better.
Individuals living with dementia likely have certain times of the day when their symptoms are either mild or more severe. Traveling during your loved one’s “best times” of the day could help minimize agitation and confusion, as well as save you unnecessary stress.
This does not just refer to travel logistics, though. Once you reach your destination, plan any activities or events during the times of day that are better for your loved one.
Additionally, maintaining as much of your loved one’s routine can help reduce agitation and better manage their symptoms. For example, eat meals at the same times you do at home and maintain your loved one’s evening routine as much as you can.
Travel the Most Direct Route
When you are providing dementia care for a loved one and traveling, it may not be the best time to take the scenic route. And while we all like to save money, sacrificing direct routes and more convenient flight times for cost is not ideal if you are traveling with someone living with dementia.
It is a good idea to stay closer to home during your travels, but if you need to fly to get to your destination, select flights with direct routes to avoid layovers. This is especially true for those with tight connections!
Traveling a more direct route will minimize stress and help you and your loved one stick to your normal routine as much as possible, like maintaining regular meals and sleeping schedules.
Allow for Plenty of Downtime
Traveling and sticking to a full schedule is a lot for anyone, especially for individuals living with dementia. A schedule full of activities in a different or even unfamiliar place can be overstimulating and overwhelming.
To help combat this, schedule activities you think your loved one would enjoy but also plan to have plenty of downtime during your trip to decompress and relax.
Dementia care is all about flexibility; no two days will be the same. “To reduce frustration, stay flexible and adapt your routine and expectations as needed. For example, if he or she wants to wear the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits (mayoclinic.org).” Or if your loved one is not feeling up to a particular activity, that is okay! The main objective of your trip should be to spend quality time together and enjoy yourselves.
Remember to keep your loved one’s needs in mind when making your travel plans. You know your loved one best, so planning a meaningful and enjoyable trip for them should come naturally.
For more senior living tips or to explore our memory care communities in Alabama, visit our website or contact a member of our Community Senior Life team.