Tips for going on holiday as a family living with dementia

Paul WilliamsFor families living with dementia going on holiday can be quite stressful as you’re in an unknown environment, which can be unsettling for the person with dementia. However, time away is still possible – and it can be enjoyable for everyone – with some planning and preparation.

Here are some tips to help you plan for when you go on holiday:

If you’re holidaying outside of the UK, make sure you have medical insurance and take all of the documentation with you in case of a medical emergency. If you’re holidaying in Europe have an EHIC card – a free European Health Insurance Card. Prior to going on holiday, spend some time researching where the local doctors’ surgeries and hospitals are located in the area.

When packing the suitcase for the person with dementia, pack their clothes in sections or in bags so it’s easier for them to manage getting dressed everyday i.e. put socks together in a bag, or underwear together in a bag.

Familiarity is important, so pack the person’s favourite blanket, set of photos, or mug that they like to use, as this will provide comfort.

Ensure the person with dementia has ID and emergency contact details on them at all times. If they get lost, it will be easier for someone to get in contact with you. Some people feel safer with a personal GPS that the person with dementia can wear, so it may be something you want to consider if it’s right for your family.

Orientation can be a challenge for someone living with dementia and being in an unfamiliar location could cause disorientation. Give the person a plan of the building and also walk them around the building you are staying in when you first arrive. Print out some signage that you can put up around your accommodation, like toilet/ bathroom, bedroom, kitchen etc.

Plan your activities for in the morning as the person with dementia is likely to get tired as the day progresses and tiredness can increase disorientation. Also, don’t plan too many activities as this can cause tiredness, exhaustion, and may lead to frustration.

Portable low-level lights, that are easy to pack, will help during the night, should the person with dementia wake up and become disorientated by where they are staying. You can also get apps on your phone, which can provide a night light.

Keep an eye on the person with dementia for signs of distress and anxiety. They may be feeling it but not telling you as they don’t want to ruin your holiday.

If you would like to go on a supported holiday there are some organisations which offer this, such as Dementia Adventure or Revitalise.

More is being done to support people with dementia who are going on holiday. For example, Gatwick Airport has just launched a lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities who may require additional support when travelling through the airport. The lanyard, which is entirely voluntary for passengers with hidden disabilities and their families, will act as a discreet sign for staff that additional support or help may be required. The lanyards are available free of charge from Gatwick’s assistance desks.

Information for this post was kindly provided by Admiral Nurse Gayle Borley.

Featured image courtesy of: Paul Williams