Holidays are loved by most people, regardless of whether they are weekend getaways or luxury holidays. A holiday is a great opportunity to reconnect with a loved one, recharge batteries, and de-stress. A person with dementia will often face similar challenges, but you can make your holiday as enjoyable and simple as possible by considering certain things before you go.
Physical and group exercise are crucial for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia because they stimulate the brain, increase strength and stability, and allow them to connect with others.
Planning a holiday: Things to consider
It is important to plan a trip for a person with dementia while considering how the disease impacts the person’s daily life. Taking this into consideration will allow you and the one you care for to pick the best type of holiday.
Here, planning is key. Plan ahead despite the fact that things can go wrong, having a clear idea of how your journey will play out can alleviate a lot of your anxiety about it. Taking less crowded routes can include travelling outside of rush hour and during off-peak periods. In addition to pre-booking tickets to popular attractions, you can also avoid long queues that can be unsettling for people with dementia.
The majority of airports and train providers will also provide assistance. Contacting them in advance helps them to prepare for your needs so they can provide you with appropriate assistance, such as boarding and alighting. European rail companies offer free assistance to passengers, as do UK rail companies. The staff at many airports are also aware that those with dementia may need extra assistance by providing quiet areas and lanyards. Most people don’t inquire about these, but they are there and normally, you just need to ask.
The length of your stay
Some people with dementia may benefit from shorter trips. If they have memory problems or find it hard to concentrate, longer trips can be tiring and harder to appreciate.
If your loved one has memory problems or they find it hard to stay concentrated, a long trip, either in journey or time away can be hugely tiring and hard for them to appreciate or understand. You’ll know how long it will be. However, there are stories of people taking loved ones away for much longer and experiencing much different things to what happens in the usual homely surroundings.
Don’t rule out day-trips, go somewhere nice and new without the need and complications of staying somewhere different overnight.
Picking your destination
A familiar destination may be preferred by people with dementia. The idea of visiting a familiar place that brings back happy memories and is less overwhelming for them might be nice.
A past experience that was important to the person could also offer a nice opportunity for connecting with them. As an example, you could consider a holiday in a cabin or yurt if the person has always enjoyed camping. As a result, you would enjoy access to useful facilities and the advantages of nature. Win-win!
Taking someone else with you
You may want to consider taking along another person on the trip who will act as your co-career so you can relax on your vacation. Taking someone else with you will relieve some pressure, and you can have some time to yourself.
An individual who is independent in familiar surroundings may need extra support when facing changes in their routine or coping with a new environment. An extra pair of hands could be useful, but it will of course need to be someone he or she trusts and knows well.
The desire to visit a particular place may be burning within you – and may be also burning within your loved one. A hankering for nature and mountain views, or a trip to a city and some sights that recall happy memories.
Be safe and covered with medical/health insurance
In case of a medical emergency when you are on holiday outside the UK, you should make sure you have adequate medical insurance and that you have all the documentation you need. Have an EHIC card while you’re on holiday in Europe – a free European Health Insurance Card. You should research the locations of local doctors’ surgeries and hospitals before you go on holiday.
The best way to travel
Airlines generally state that people who travel with a ‘permanent or stable condition’ do not require medical clearance, but do check when you make your booking. British Airways has a Passenger Medical Clearance Unit, which offers a free advisory service for anyone who is planning to fly and who has a disability. Airports and airlines should provide help with things like getting to check-in, getting on and off the plane, and with finding your way around the destination airport. Some of these services need to be arranged at least 48 hours before you’re due to fly.
When informed at least two days in advance, rail companies will usually meet a person at the departure station and help them board the appropriate train. A passenger can request this support through the National Assisted Passenger Reservation Service. Contact information for the rail company you’re riding with can be obtained from National Rail Enquiries. The Eurostar passenger assistance service, which is available at any Eurostar terminal, is complimentary for passengers with special needs. You can arrange this service when you book or at least 48 hours before your departure.
Plan to stop at least every two hours if you’re traveling a long distance by car. Before you set off, note any traffic updates and factor in regular breaks from driving. You can easily get lost or disoriented at highway service stations. Make sure your loved one has a note of the model, color, and registration number of the car, or, even better, a photograph – it may come in handy.
The Benefits of a loved one with dementia having a holiday
Those with dementia and those around them can benefit from a well-planned holiday. It can breathe new life into relationships, re-connect and re-establish new methods and routines of living whilst sparking memories and enjoyment.
Stimulation through new experiences
Holidays offer an opportunity to try new things. Conversations with new people, going to new places, and taking part in new activities are just a few examples. As a result, it can build a person’s confidence and allow them to participate in activities that they would not normally do.
Keeping some of the familiarity of a person’s usual routine can make it easier to try new experiences. For those with dementia, this is essential.
The beauty of re-connection
As well as creating new shared experiences, holidays can also bring people closer together. When carers spend time away with their loved one they care for, their relationship with them improves.
The past brings back happy memories
Travel offers people the chance to experience new things and return to familiar places. Dementia sufferers can benefit from this as it allows them to remember past holidays or places they lived before.
It could be the smell of sun cream, the sound of waves crashing, or the taste of a particular dish, for example, if they used to go to the beach. Fish and chips, the salty air, the sound of pebbles under foot – it can be a number of things.
Going to a different country or county
A person’s cultural identity can be formed by visiting family and friends, or spending time in a foreign country or different place. As an example, you may live in London now but your loved one might have spent most of their adult life, or a happy part of it in Liverpool. The accent, the familiar sights, these things can all help bring back happy memories and comforts.
Useful information and help
Disability Rights UK
020 7250 8181
Information about the Radar National Key
scheme which offers independent access
to locked public toilets in most parts of
Tourism for All UK
0845 124 9971
Holiday and travel information service
for disabled and older people, and their
030 3303 0145
A national charity providing essential
breaks for people with disabilities, and
visual impairments, and their carers.
British Airways Passenger Medical Clearance Unit
020 8738 5444
Advises travellers about whether they
consider patients with certain medical
conditions to be fit to travel with them.