Lucy Harding, Chief Operations Officer of the award-winning charity Dementia Adventure explains how to get the best out of your holiday
In my seven years working in the travel industry I saw how beneficial it can be for people to take a break, experience new places and people, revisit beloved locations and continue to feel a sense of adventure in their lives. When I met Neil, he had been supporting people with dementia and carers for most of his career. We saw a lack of choice and control and a failure in the current system to offer anything which we would see as desirable if this illness were to affect us. Motivated by this, we decided to put our respective expertise together and offer a range of holidays and short breaks for people living with dementia and their carers to experience together.
To date, we have delivered 57 holidays and helped over 200 people take a much needed break. In that time we have learnt a lot about travelling with people with dementia. Dementia affects people so differently and of course everyone with dementia is an individual. However, here are some basic guidelines that I hope are useful to everyone
Lucy’s 9 top tips
1. An extra pair of hands
First and foremost there is often a need for extra pairs of hands. If you are planning a trip try asking friends and relatives if they would be willing to go with you. If they can’t, try asking a volunteer or a befriending service. If money is not a barrier you can ask a home care provider to supply a helper/carer for a week. People who are helping should ideally be someone who knows the person well. If they don’t, they will need to be thoroughly briefed on their needs and preferences. Remember, they are there to help and must be constantly vigilant and reassuring.
2. Ask for assistance
All the train companies and airports offer assistance for disabled passengers. You qualify for this service. Just because your “disability” is not visible doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. So use these services whenever you can. Being taken to the front of a queue and given a helpful hand along the way can make a huge difference to how stressful your travel experience is. Local visitor attractions will also have assistance services – always ask.
3. Allow plenty of time to do everything
From travelling to the venue, to walking around a stately home’s garden. Literally taking the time to smell the roses will bring great rewards.
4. Don’t be too ambitious
Don’t try and pack everything in or do too much in one day.
5. Take frequent breaks
Making sure blood sugar levels are well topped up and that dehydration isn’t an issue will give you much more energy to enjoy yourselves. Savoury snacks or sweet treats like an ice-cream can provide useful incentives to go to places as well as welcome pick me ups in the course of a day.
6. Be well organised
If at all possible everything should be well organised, booked and preferably paid for before you go. Don’t leave anything important to chance and have a framework upon which to hang your holiday – then the fun can happen!
7. Be positive and upbeat
Do try to maintain a cheerful disposition. Even if something goes wrong try to adapt and move on. Don’t let it get you down, do something else instead. Having a stack of things such as jigsaws, photobooks and puzzles with you can be a helpful distraction in a difficult situation. People with dementia can be very sensitive to other people’s moods and feelings so try not to project any negativity.
8. Consider physical comfort
Make sure people are not too hot or too cold and have regular opportunities/prompts to go to the toilet – this reduces the risk of accidents. If your loved one is likely to take off in the wrong direction, it might be useful to get a simple tracker. There are lots to choose from, go here for more information.
9. Seek professional assistance
Like Dementia Adventure there are other organisations who specialise in supporting people with dementia. Seek professional help if you feel you need that extra support. As well as us, you might consider The Mede, Amy’s care, Mind for You, Revitalise, Cherish holidays.
Did you know?
Dementia Adventure offer the first holiday in a calendar year at a rate subsidised by our charitable funding, so that as many people as possible can afford to access the help and support we offer. If you would like to talk about going on a Dementia Adventure holiday or how you can support us or volunteer with us, please call us on 01245 237 548 or go to www.dementiaadventure.co.uk.