Memory Matters: Time Away Options When Your Loved One has Dementia

Memory Matters
Time Away Options When Your Loved One has Dementia

Do you have plans to get away? If you are caring for a person with memory loss or dementia, it is important to consider the person's abilities and make adaptations so that everyone has a relaxing and stress free time.
First, decide what your expectations are. The person with memory loss will still have the same needs as they do at home. In that sense, taking the person with dementia on a road trip may cause the caregiver to end up having "working recreational time." If you decide to travel with your loved one, below are some suggestions to consider when making plans.
* Stick with familiar modes of transportation and destinations. If the person traveled by car before the onset of the disease then you may want to consider traveling by car rather than by airplane.
* Avoid busy places. Big cities or amusement parks may cause over stimulation, confusion, or anxiety in the person.
* Keep travel plans simple. Choose a trip with few changes versus a fast-paced sightseeing tour, which could overwhelm the person.
* Have an alternative plan. You always want to have an alternate plan in case it gets too stressful for the person with memory loss or if the person gets ill. You may want the option to cut your away time short or have an agreed upon plan to have another person return your loved one to a comfortable environment.
* Be sure to share the itinerary and contact information with your family members so that in case of an emergency, you can be contacted.
* Advise airlines, hotels, and tour operators that you are traveling with a person who has dementia.
* Educate service and hospitality professionals about the disease, the person's behaviors, and any special needs the person with the disease may have.
* If the person travels better at a specific time of day, plan your departure and travel times accordingly.
* Maintain daily routines. You may want to accommodate routines such as eating and bathing times as much as possible.
* Provide identification items for the person. You may want to get an identification bracelet through the Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return Program or clothing labels in case of wandering or separation.
* Find out if there is a local Alzheimer's Association chapter at your destination.
While no planned away trips are ever perfect, planning for the unexpected will help create an enjoyable memory for both of you. Above all, have confidence in your abilities as a caregiver and enjoy this special time together.
Respite Care: Taking a break from care giving can be a wonderful gift to give yourself as well as benefiting your loved one. A well-rested caregiver is an effective caregiver. So if you decide to travel alone or your loved one is unable to travel, consider respite care. Respite care can be done by another family member, neighbor, or by an area care facility. This may be a needed break for you as well as the person with memory loss.
* The person with memory loss will experience a new or fresh caring approach from a different caregiver.
* They will be able to get out of the house, socialize, and participate with others.
* They will be safe with structured activities offered that meet the person's needs.
As a caregiver to a person with memory loss one often feels guilty when taking time for oneself. The caregiver may feel that taking alone time is selfish. They may feel guilty or anxious or may be concerned about costs. Remember, seeking help can restore your sense of wellbeing and provide you with a change to recharge. You are making the best decision for both you and your loved one.
Contact the Alzheimer's Association at 301-797-4892 or 800-443-CARE (2273) for further information about, trip-planning, airplane travel with a person with dementia, a listing of care facilities that could provide respite, or additional Alzheimer or dementia care information.

The Alzheimer's Association is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The Association enhances care and support for people with Alzheimer's disease, their families, and caregivers and encourages support for research. Local office: 5 Public Square, Ste. 307, Hagerstown, MD, 301-797-4892; fax, 301-797-0150; email,,