TIPS FOR TRAVEL WITH PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to predict how people with dementia will handle travel, says geriatric psychiatrist Nathan Herrmann. Each type of dementia has mild, moderate and severe stages, which can vary from one individual to the next, as can their behaviour. With so many variables, travel can be anything from “fantastic to stimulating to agitating and distressing.” People who have milder dementia without a lot of neuropsychiatric difficulties such as anxiety or depression are likely to have the easiest time. And it is key to plan a holiday that achieves a balance between stimulating and overstimulating. Here, some of his expert advice: > Plan ahead, and don’t be overly ambitious. Consider a short bus trip, or a trip with a one- or two-hour flight to a destination with a minimal time difference, before trying an international holiday.
> A plane is an enclosed space with constant noise and movement. Think of ways to reduce stimulation; bring a sleep mask, noise-cancelling headphones, and favourite snacks and music. You may also want to bring calming medication that has worked for them in the past, but only after discussing it with their doctor. > Consider travelling with one or two other family members or friends to reduce pressure on the person with dementia to talk if they are tired or overstimulated. > Choose activities you know the person has enjoyed in the past. “People don’t lose appreciation for the beauty of nature, for children playing, for interacting with animals, even in later stages of the illness,” said Herrmann. > Don’t leave the person with dementia alone. That means sleeping in the same hotel room or suite with them, and doing all activities together, unless you divide up your group and at least one person can be with them. > Be sure to have medical coverage for emergencies.