Traveling or Staying Home for the Holidays with your Loved One

The holidays can be a very difficult and stressful time of year for anyone, and this can be especially so for victims of dementia and their caregivers. There are lots of rituals and traditions that people think are important. You want to follow them so everything will be “normal.”

But, as a caregiver, your situation is anything but normal. You would like to have a “normal” holiday, but you may have to take a deep breath and make some adjustments for your situation. Consider the possibility that doing things differently for the sake of your loved one may bring positive memories for your family, rather than a holiday struggle with tradition.

One of your first decisions may be whether you are driving, flying, staying home alone, or having family come to visit you. Whatever you choose, you must be mindful to keep as much routine as possible for your loved one.

In most cases, flying is probably very difficult. Delays, noise, crowds, and strange environments will shatter any sense of routine. It can be a frightening and confusing experience for your loved one, leading to difficult or inappropriate behavior.

If you hope to drive somewhere, you may want to take a short trial trip, including one night’s overnight stay, to see how your loved one will react. Be aware that taking your loved one out of their routine and environment may cause wandering issues. Someone who needs assistance with bathing, dressing, and toileting, or who is prone to paranoia or delusions will likely have real difficulty with traveling. If they cannot tolerate the short trial trip, they will surely not be successful on a longer trip.

This test can determine whether you should stay home, or ask family to come visit you. Of course, this will also create its own set of “routine breakers,”and you probably should not consider it unless you know that your relatives fully understand your situation and are compassionate toward victims of dementia.

But if you feel you must travel, you may want to discuss it with your physician who may provide you with an anti-anxiety medication.

Being as prepared as possible will work in your favor. Here are some pointers:

1. Travel at your loved one’s best time of day
2. Choose comfortable clothes and shoes
3. Allow time – do not rush – stay as clam as possible
4. Reserve a wheelchair to limit the fatigue of walking
5. If flying, try to get a non-stop flight, check all bags and inform the airline staff
6. If driving, stop frequently to hydrate, snack, and walk around. Stop early enough to have dinner and maintain the nightly routine

7. Have a bag packed with:

* Favorite Drinks and Water
* Snacks
* Activities and favorite items
* Favorite music with headphones (to limit the noise and confusion)
* Have emergency contact information for both of you
* Have a list of current medications and dosages and allergies
* Take copies of legal papers
* Have a travel itinerary
* Use an identification bracelet on your loved one and carry a current picture
* Bring extra clothing
* Bring incontinence products

Try to maintain a sense of humor, and enjoy your time as much as possible. Recognize when your loved one is showing signs of fatigue and agitation, and try to provide enough rest or quite time. Remember to breathe and watch your stress level. The person you are with is taking cues from you. Be as flexible as possible and go with the flow. Have a back-up plan.

In conclusion, planning is the key to having a vacation that is enjoyable, safe, and as stress-free as possible. Being prepared can help avoid or better handle any mishaps that you encounter. Stay calm and ask for help from family and friends. With planning and preparedness, you can have a successful trip, even at this time of year.

Until next time remember: “We all deserve the best”

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© Debbie Selsavage, 2015