Travelling with Dementia

My experience of holiday travel with dementia with hopefully some useful tips.

I recently had a wonderful holiday in Tobago.  I have fallen in love with the island as it is sheer paradise.  I felt there was nothing to do but relax, recover, swim, eat, relax, read books…..I read six books in a week, and exercised more than I have in months swimming several times throughout every day.

Travelling when you have dementia however early can be horrendous.  The trick is to plan well ahead.   Even with booking my ‘last minute’ holiday knowing what makes it less stressful helps the planning.  What works for me may not work for everyone but maybe I can say some things that you may not have thought about.

  1.  Getting to the Airport

I checked the coaches and the trains.   From where I live there is a train that goes from my small local station to Reading – a major station.  Then from Reading there is a train to Gatwick Airport in UK.  Gatwick Airport trains even has its own platform.  However, most of the trains that I wanted that day appeared to go to London which meant travelling across London by tube to another train station which is not good for me.  So I kept looking and found that a direct train to Gatwick Airport started at from 2pm and I booked that one.  From Reading to Gatwick Airport in one go – perfect for keeping distress down.

I need to know what platform the service goes from in advance, so that if I am on the station previously I check out the platform so that I know where it is.

2. Avoiding the stress of travelling

I worry.  I get distressed if I think I am going to be late if there is a time deadline because I have little sense of time these days, also because I know how unpredictable the train service can be with delays and breakdowns.

So, I looked for an overnight stay at an hotel at the airport.   I booked a room for my daughter and I online at the Hilton Gatwick South Terminal with a great deal.  Checked in online so that I only needed to pick the key up.  We both met up there, me being the first to pick up the keys and relaxed with a glass of wine whilst I waited for her.

Food – I knew from a previous experience that the hotel is a very short distance from the terminal so we went there for a cheaper meal that suited us fine.

In the morning we were up, showered and ready to go.

3. De-stressing at the Airport

We had pre-booked the Airport Lounge for a relatively small cost to wait for our flight after checking in our bags, which we also did online.  This makes things so much easier and quicker.  The Lounge offers a good range of breakfast, tea, coffee, drinks, newspapers, comfortable seats  which are all included in the price and is quieter.  It is definitely more relaxing that sitting in the general area with lots of people.   The bustle of people can be more stressful when you have dementia because it is overwhelming, so airport lounge is a great place to counteract that.

4.  The Flight

Choosing your airline and seat I think is important.  When you are fit and able you can tolerate a lot of things.  In the past I have flown with the cheapest Airlines and laughed at cramped conditions and poor service, but then have paid next to nothing for the flights.  Now I have dementia, I must make it an enjoyable experience from start to finish to have a good holiday experience.  One day I will not be able to travel so I want to make sure that I can make travelling pleasurable for as long as possible.

I choose a good airline.  Personally I fly with British Airways.  It is not the cheapest but has the attributes to make it better for me.  I usually pay a bit more and fly premium economy which is better than economy or standard.  With it you get more seat room, and are offered  a slightly better steward service.   This holiday I flew economy – ten and a half hours of wishing I had upgraded to have a little bit more room!  15 years ago it would have been absolutely fine but not now.   Now it is important to make things easier, less stressful and pleasurable as possible.

Walk about on a long flight.  I walk up and down and don’t care how ridiculous I look I join others in a bit of space to exercise.  I wish I had bought some flight socks, because my feet and legs started to swell on the flight home.

Drink Plenty of Fluids.   Thing is about dementia I forget to think about whether I have drunk enough liquids if I am not at home.  I usually drink copious amounts of tea and (weak) coffee throughout the day, its just automatic.  Cup empty = make another.   When I am out and about it is another matter.  I never think about eating or drinking.  I try and take a bottle of water with me when I’m out because it reminds me to drink.

So on a flight, you need to keep drinking a small cup of water every so often.  On my Tobago flight I found that the stewards did not come round constantly with glasses of water, but you could get up and ask for some whenever you wanted to, but I didn’t think to.  Finally when I was not feeling great I went back to get some water and was given a good amount and felt much better after that.  So you must remember just because someone with Dementia doesn’t ask, it is important to remember to keep drinking water during a long flight.

5.  The holiday

I have realised that it didn’t  matter if I didn’t travel to see much of the island.  Where I was was perfect for me.  It had the peace that I craved to enjoy myself.  We walked along the beach, up the coast road, to the local shop to buy water.  There’s a tale – there are some guys who are looking out for wives and we were followed by a guy with no teeth trying to tell us he was a good catch because he had a house and some land, he was also trying to tell me his age – 63, trying saying that without teeth!  Then a refuse truck came along, stopped and a young guy got out and started haranguing our follower to ‘leave the ladies alone’ and ‘stop harassing’ us.  It was very funny!

Even though there were far too many steps for my arthritis and fibromyalgia it didn’t matter, I found the route with the least steps to the beach – sorted.   Being comfortable with just watching the birds, sitting in the shade, a bit of swimming was a great holiday.

Returning home was the same.  I caught a direct train and it there was no stress.

Everything I do now I plan.  I am lucky enough to be comfortable with a computer and being online.  So I research.  I print everything out and I put it in a folder.  I print out itineraries for whatever I am doing if I am travelling so that I have one piece of paper for my handbag to check on ‘what do I do next’.

Next holiday is later this year so I shall be starting my planning a coupe of months ahead of time and start saving for it!

Author: Gill

I read books and review them. Books are my escape. I have always loved books. I write a blog, I get involved where and when I can in things I feel that are important. I also have Alzheimer's Disease but it does not define who I am. I am in the early stages so you may not notice. So, I will tell you how it is.

16 thoughts on “Travelling with Dementia”

    1. It was! I loved this holiday and a wonderful time to go.
      A big holiday coming up in August/September..which my daughter will do most of the planning, thankfully 🙂

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    1. Thank you Clazz, so nice of you.

      I love your blog, I am so jealous of you travelling 🙂 and I have enjoyed reading of your travels. Keep going.

      By the way, I am guessing Australia doesn’t have Thanksgiving!!

      Like

  1. How wonderful that you were able to go on a holiday with your daughter. Hope you are able to travel for many more trips in the near future.
    I would have done what you did – plan ahead.
    ….and making notes or printing off details from the internet to ensure I have all info at the tip of my fingers.

    It would be great to be flexible and spontaneous in life, but reality with chronic illness or cognitive dysfunction means one has to be sensible and plan ahead wherever possible.

    Planning a hectic schedule or trying to pack too much into your holiday is another no-no.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand Vicki, my daughter has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, along with other medical problems, and with my with Fibromyalgia, we are both rubbish at doing very much on holiday!

      I guess that is why we have learnt to plan according to our restrictions. You know; you do a bit one day, rest up and sleep the next. In too much pain – do a bit rest, do a bit more, rest.

      So the planning is an absolute must and between the two of us we manage it. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d forgotten your daughter has CFS (or maybe you didn’t mention it before). Hope she was able to enjoy the holiday too, Gill. Hopefully you can help each other out along the way. 🙂 I doubt I’d go anywhere much with a 100% health person these days. They all walk too fast for me, let alone pushing me beyond my ‘energy envelope’ which is about 4-5 hours at most.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. They all sound like normal tips to make anyone’s journey/holiday less stressful – you don’t have to keep saying it’s because of your “dementia”! And it’s lucky that so you’re so loaded with cash to be able to pay for all these extras.

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    1. Hi Andrea, Thank you for your caustic comment. I see you have a connection with canal boats!

      I agree, that these things are ‘normal’ tips, but the difference is, is that people living with dementia don’t think of these things. When you have another person ‘caring’ for someone living with dementia these things are not always normal. For instance, when you do not have a condition that affects you cognitively, you would not worry how you get to the airport as long as you get there. You would not necessarily stay at an hotel, to save money. You would be happy to travel economy. To go along with things….

      As for money; no I am certainly not loaded. I do not have savings, I live on a pension but I adjust my lifestyle and save very hard for a holiday. I actually had a tax rebate which paid for my holiday to Tobago. I don’t buy many clothes, I never buy new furniture or things like that, I get practically everything in charity shops. ALL of my furniture has been bought second hand and I upcycle it. I am a believer in making things rather than buying them. I rarely go out so don’t spend that way.

      I believe anyone can achieve what they want if they try really hard and are willing to give up something in return.

      I do hope that has answered your questioning how I can afford to do so. Also it is difficult to understand the difficulties people have with Dementia when you have little knowledge of living with dementia.

      Please contact me further and I can give you lots of websites of my friends who also live with dementia and manage to live fulfilling lives as they can.

      Also if you wish to comment please do so honestly and upfront without hiding behind an anonymous name.

      Peace to you.

      🙂

      Like

      1. I don’t know who you think I am, but I found your blog and read a number of the entries and you appear to be very obsessed with your “dementia”, even though in one entry you decided you didn’t even have it. I’m sorry if I’m misjudging you, but going by what I’ve read you seem to positively bask in the attention “dementia” brings you, and it’s as though you’d be lost without it. I work full time and couldn’t afford the holidays you go on, so I suspect you have more funds than you let on. I’ll let you get back to your “dementia”. Enjoy!

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  3. Well whoever you are,

    You do not have a WordPress account, but just happened to ‘find’ my blog. What were you looking for to ‘find’ it I wonder? And, why on earth would you take the effort in leaving a comment? Your comment about you working and can’t afford a holiday is nothing to do with my blog, so why comment on it? Why would you want to question it I wonder…..hmmm reminds me of my abusive ex husband desperately trying to make out things that equally made no sense…………..

    I have dementia, and if you are so utterly insensitive to question why I blog about it, then you just don’t ‘get’ it.

    I have searched for you and I see what I see so if you are not happy with what I have written then, DON’T READ IT. Simple as that.

    I am so glad you have made such a nasty comment because it shows what people with any disability has to put up with from ignorance.

    🙄

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