Going on holiday with dementia
Holiday season is in full swing in the UK as we look to escape the rainy British weather in favour of sunnier climes. Everyone can benefit from a bit of time away from home, enjoying the scenery, experiences and flavours of a different destination – including people living with dementia.
If you’re planning to get away and take a loved one with dementia along, there are lots of ways you can prepare in advance to ensure your experience is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. Read our holiday planning guide for lots of helpful information for getting the most out of your trip.
Where to go on holiday
Part of the fun of planning a holiday is choosing the destination. If you’re taking a loved one with dementia away for a break, factor in things like distance and climate when choosing where you’ll visit.
Some individuals with dementia might not cope well with long travelling times or places that are very different from their surroundings. Being too hot or too cold can also affect how they’ll feel during the break, and they may not always be able to express this.
A practical option is to plan a getaway closer to home: the UK has plenty of beautiful beaches, historical landmarks and rich culture to enjoy. There’s no language barrier and the climate, while unpredictable, is a known quantity. Travel times are shorter and there’s no need to face busy airports or queues for ferry crossings, either.
Hotel or self-catering?
Big, busy hotels can be daunting places for people living with dementia. Choosing a smaller, quieter hotel can be helpful if your loved one finds crowds and noise unsettling.
If you do stay at a hotel, let them know that you’ll be travelling with somebody who has dementia, so they can discreetly support you. They may be able to ensure you have connecting rooms, for example, or place you on the ground floor near to the hotel’s key services. You might want to take along a portable door sensor or alarm, if you’ll be staying in different rooms.
A self-catering break can also be a good option; staying in a homely property via a rental website like Airbnb, or in an open-plan, spacious lodge like those offered at Center Parcs, gives a holiday that family feel and allows everyone to spend time together.
Types of transport
If you’re staying in the UK, you might be travelling to your holiday destination by car, which makes planning somewhat easier since you can make regular rest stops and take breaks along the way.
In some cases, you might decide to take the train – try to plan around busy times to avoid crowds and potential stress in the station. You can also check for delays ahead of time via the National Rail or Trainline websites.
If you do decide to travel abroad and are unsure how your loved one will manage with the travel time, look at short haul destinations like France or Spain. Or, if you’re planning to take the ferry, you might want to opt for priority boarding and a quiet club lounge, although there may be additional charges for these services.
What to take
As well as all the usual items like beachwear and sun cream, you could take along some items that would help your loved one feel more at home while away. Their favourite mug, their pillowcase from home and their usual bath towel and soap may all help the person feel settled in their holiday accommodation.
If the person you’re travelling with takes medication, keep this in your hand luggage if you’re travelling overseas. It can also be helpful to get a letter from the doctor in case you need to get more of their medicine during your time away. Don’t forget to pack their European Health Insurance Card too, if you’ll be travelling to Europe – this entitles the person to any necessary state-provided healthcare.
It’s also important to make sure your loved one has some form of identification on them, like an ID bracelet, in case they become lost or confused. They should also have a list of useful contact numbers with them at all times that includes the phone numbers of anyone travelling with them on the trip.
How long to stay
Nobody knows your loved one better than you, so consider how long to book your break for and take into account how they’re likely to feel in their new surroundings. A few days might be just enough time to enjoy a change of scenery without the person becoming unsettled.
If you’re unsure whether your loved one will enjoy being away from the familiarity of home, an alternative option is to book some fun day trips rather than heading off somewhere for several nights.
Talk to them about where they might like to visit – they may have fond memories of places they stayed at in their youth, so re-visiting these spots could be the perfect way to enjoy getting away for the day without having to stay the night.
Plan well in advance to ensure your loved one with dementia has a holiday they’ll enjoy, and that keeps stress to a minimum for everyone travelling. There are even some specialised holidays designed for people living with dementia – a quick search on the internet should bring up plenty of options.
Don’t forget that we’re here to support you when you return with personalised dementia care at home – call us anytime for more information on 0161 537 0983.