Going on holiday with dementia

A walk along the beach can be enjoyed whatever the season.

One tip is to visit places you have been before - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hopefully in the not too distant future we will all be booking our holidays either at home, or Covid permitting, abroad.

Normally it would be a straight forward thing but when you live with someone with dementia there is so much to more to think about.

The thing is, and it may seem daunting at first, and all depends at what stage of dementia the person is at, but on the whole most things can be covered.

The first thing to think about is travelling and how to get there. We would advise to visit places they have been before and are familiar with.

If you go abroad or somewhere in the UK and have been before, try and find some old pictures or videos of your previous stays and share them with the person. Sit and chat to remind them what a great time you had last time and let them know you’re going again.  

If travelling by car, make sure you plan your routes re toilet stops beforehand and how long it will take you to get there.

If by air, please let the airlines know the person has dementia, please don’t be frightened of telling them, they are so very better much informed these days and can be more helpful than you think.

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If by rail, you can ask for assisted assistance at the train stations if you have multiple changes.

My wife Elaine did this for me when we went to Downing Street no less, and there was always somebody there to help us at our stops.

Once there, then familiarity is the name of the game, try to have your meals at the same time you do at home.

You can’t stick to the same daily routine and neither would you want to on holiday but I would try and keep to the same mealtimes and also bedtimes.

Depending on the severity of the dementia and, of course, sundowning - if anybody doesn’t know what this is, it’s quite simply means with some, as the day goes on their dementia symptoms get worse, I myself suffer badly from this an that’s the reason I haven’t been out anywhere at night now for years - then plan your activities for mornings to early afternoons.

There is so much to do at these times and it will also make it so much easier for you to manage as well, as the person with dementia are more likely to be amenable. 

Please try and remember it’s your holiday as well. Yes, by all means make those special memories together but please try and take some time on your own when you get the chance. If they have an early night or a nap in the afternoon, please make the most of it by reading a book or having a cheeky little glass of red wine if that’s your tipple.

What I have explained here is more or less the routine we follow and we have had some great holidays.

We sit and plan where to go the day before, and OK, sometimes I don’t always remember what we agreed on, but when we get there we make the most of it.

So what if you have a nap in the afternoon, so what if you go to bed at 9pm, it’s your holiday, both of you, you can do what you jolly well like.

A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean the end of everything, Far from it.