Have a good trip: how to go on a dementia-friendly holiday

Are you worried about going on holiday with a loved one who has dementia? Find out how to make the experience enjoyable for everyone

Living with dementia can be stressful and isolating. If the condition is taking its toll physically and mentally on you and the person you’re caring for, it might be time you both had a chance to relax and unwind. But holidays can be stressful too, can’t they? Well yes, they can – but if you follow the tips below you could find ways to manage the stress.

Three golden rules

While you’re planning and preparing for your trip it’s very important to:

1. Be realistic – your loved one may have enjoyed month-long holidays in far flung locations before, but perhaps something short and simple and nearer home would be more suitable now?

2. Be honest – don’t try to hide their condition when you’re booking a holiday. Instead, explain the diagnosis and what it might involve to anyone who may need to know, including hotels and tour operators.

3. Be organised – you will be responsible for everything from travel documents and medication to sun cream and spending money.

Where will you stay?

Friend or family

Many people find this is a good choice. The person with dementia can spend time with loved ones they may not see very often, while also staying in an environment which is comfortable and welcoming. You can often hand over responsibility to others (at least for a few hours each day) and take some well-deserved ‘me time’.

Tip: Pick a quiet time for travelling, avoiding school holidays or bank holidays if possible. For more advice about travelling with dementia go here.

Package holiday

This can sound appealing, as accommodation, travel and meals are sorted for you before you leave. If the person with dementia is only mildly affected this kind of holiday could be a great success, particularly if you choose a location which is familiar to them or contains many happy memories.

Tip: Go out of season when resorts are quieter and airports are less busy (it’s far cheaper too).

Specialist holiday

You may find a holiday specially designed for people with dementia (and their carers) to be the least stressful option – and there are plenty to choose from, including those offered by specialist charity Dementia Adventure. For example, if the person you’re caring for is in the earlier stages of the dementia journey they may enjoy a more adventurous holiday, including activities such as sailing or walking. If their needs are more complex, you could choose a relaxing, pampering holiday with the option of extra nursing care if necessary.

Tip: These holidays can be expensive, so if you’re struggling financially find out if you’re entitled to respite care.

A DIY mini break

Of course you could organise your own break, either in the UK or abroad. This may offer more choice and flexibility than a package deal – and it could be cheaper, too.

Tip: Consider inviting someone else along to help you, otherwise you may find it isn’t much of a holiday for you!

Your holiday checklist

Don’t leave home without…

Insurance – pre-existing medical conditions, such as dementia, aren’t normally covered in standard travel insurance so you may need to take out specialist insurance in case your loved one has an accident relating to their dementia. Take the insurance documents with you on holiday in case you need to make a claim (and always take your European Health Insurance Card).
Medication and a doctor’s letter - this can explain the dementia diagnosis and include any information about medication or treatments that may become necessary if your loved one becomes ill.
Identification – making sure the person with dementia always has identification on them in case they become separated from you. You could also consider using a tracking device.

And don’t forget

The chances of losing something tends to increase when you’re with a person who has memory problems, so take extra care by:

1. Making two lists of everything you’ve put in the suitcase and leave a duplicate list with someone else in case the one you’re carrying goes missing.
2. If you’re taking passports, make two copies of the personal details page of each passport, take one copy with you (but keep it separate to the passports) and leave the other with someone at home.
3. Take your sense of humour! If you can both laugh together you’re far more likely to have a happy holiday. Enjoy your trip!