Recently my family took a vacation. It was so much fun and desperately needed. After getting back I started wondering:
Can I take someone who has dementia on a trip or outing?
I know a lot about dementia through my research but this was a topic that never came up. So I decided to do some digging. I know there are different stages of dementia and the stage your loved one is in will sway the answer to this question. I will then address how to prepare and plan for a happy and successful outing. Finally, I will discuss what outings to avoid and which ones are preferable.
What are the different stages of Dementia?
So dementia breaks down into 7 different stages according to the Global Deterioration Scale (aka: GDS). It is the most common guide to tracking dementia. Instead of “reinventing the wheel” below I have pasted the chart from dementia care central
||Signs and Symptoms
||Expected Duration of Stage
No Cognitive Decline
|In this stage, the person functions normally, has no memory loss, and is mentally healthy. People with NO dementia would be considered to be in Stage 1.
Very Mild Cognitive Decline
|This stage is used to describe normal forgetfulness associated with aging. For example, forgetting names and where familiar objects were left. Symptoms of dementia are not evident to the individual’s loved ones or their physician.
Mild Cognitive Decline
|This stage includes increased forgetfulness, slight difficulty concentrating, and decreased work performance. People may get lost more frequently or have difficulty finding the right words. At this stage, a person’s loved ones will begin to notice a cognitive decline.
||Average duration of this stage is between 2 years and 7 years.
Moderate Cognitive Decline
|This stage includes difficulty concentrating, decreased memory of recent events, and difficulties managing finances or traveling alone to new locations. People have trouble completing complex tasks efficiently or accurately and may be in denial about their symptoms. They may also start withdrawing from family or friends because socialization becomes difficult. At this stage, a physician can detect clear cognitive problems during a patient interview and exam.
||Average duration of this stage is 2 years.
Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
|People in this stage have major memory deficiencies and need some assistance to complete their daily living activities (dressing, bathing, preparing meals, etc.). Memory loss is more prominent and may include major relevant aspects of current lives. For example, people may not remember their address or phone number and may not know the time or day or where they are.
||Average duration of this stage is 1.5 years.
Severe Cognitive Decline (Middle Dementia)
|People in Stage 6 require extensive assistance to carry out their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). They start to forget names of close family members and have little memory of recent events. Many people can remember only some details of earlier life. Individuals also have difficulty counting down from 10 and finishing tasks. Incontinence (loss of bladder or bowel control) is a problem in this stage. Ability to speak declines. Personality / emotional changes, such as delusions (believing something to be true that is not), compulsions (repeating a simple behavior, such as cleaning), or anxiety and agitation may occur.
||Average duration of this stage is 2.5 years
Very Severe Cognitive Decline (Late Dementia)
|People in this stage have essentially no ability to speak or communicate. They require assistance with most activities (e.g., using the toilet, eating). They often lose psychomotor skills. For example, the ability to walk.
||Average duration of this stage is 1.5 to 2.5 years.
Now that we know the different stages which ones will allow for travel? People in the early stages can usually travel alone. As dementia progresses it will become harder and harder to maintain mobility. Travel toward the end of Mid-Stage and all of Late Stage is not recommended. Next, let’s talk about how to prepare for an outing.
Traveling with 2 kids is quite the feet. Packing diapers for the younger one and toys/electronics for the older one. Not to mention all the everyday things you need clothes, personal care products, etc. I found by the time we arrived the kids had everything they needed which I was very proud of. However I found my bag lacking some of the very basic necessities. I was able to pack everything for the kids because I had made a list of all the things they would need and checked it twice. Determine where you are going and tailor your list to what you may need. Try to think through the day and what possible things you may need IE: sunscreen, blankets, jackets, etc.
Depending on where you’re going you may need to speak with people about how to deal with your loved one’s dementia.
Where should we go?
Try picking a venue appropriate to the person’s personality. If they are a gardener take them outdoors, laid back take them to a movie, or if they would just prefer a visit with family then that’s what you should do.