Q. With the holidays coming, I was hoping to take my mother on a trip to see my sister and her family. Mom gets so easily confused these days, I don't know if it would be too distressing for her. I know she'd thoroughly enjoy the visit once we were there. Any advice?
A. Traveling with a person with dementia can be done and can result in a rewarding experience for both of you, but it does take planning. You don't indicate how you would travel to your sister's. If in a car, plan your route to allow for breaks so that your mother doesn't go too long without eating or the opportunity to go to the toilet, stretch her legs, etc. If in public transit, such as a bus or airplane, try to plan to travel during a less busy time. Public areas can be unsettling to the most cognitively intact of us. Can you travel to see your sister during times of the day or week that are less crowded? Be sure to bring along books or activities that you can engage in with your mother so she doesn't get bored or fearful.
Consider the safety of the person you are caring for. It may be helpful to have a identification bracelet made, or attach a tag to your mother's clothing with her full name, your name and contact information. Keep all credit cards, money, and passports with you for security. Also, never leave your mother alone.
Try to make accommodations that will maintain familiarity, such keeping a daily routine of eating, bathing and sleeping times and patterns. Don't overwhelm your mother by trying to do too much in one day. In addition, you and your mother may need extra time to relax in between activities.
If you haven't traveled at all together, plan a short "test" run. See how it goes. If it doesn't go well, think about what you might do to improve it or consider trying again after the holidays when things are less stressful.
The Alzheimer's Association has a fact sheet called "vacationing" that can provide you with other helpful tips. They can be reached at 1-800-848-7097.
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