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Dementia-Friendly Holidays: UK Guide

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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Older people with dementia may find that they need to make lifestyle adjustments, but they don’t need to stop doing all the things they enjoy. Accessibility supports like home modifications and personal alarms can help seniors with dementia to do as much as possible for as long as possible.

Similarly, a dementia diagnosis doesn’t have to mean your elderly loved one can’t go on holiday. While holidaying away from home isn’t right for all older people with dementia, some elderly people with dementia absolutely can go on holiday – if the right preparations are made.

In this article, we’ll discuss planning dementia-friendly holidays, UK tips for dementia-friendly travel, and even dementia-friendly hotels for UK holidaymakers.

Getting dementia-friendly holidays right

So, what’s the key to acing travel with an older person with dementia?

It’s simply that considerations about dementia need to be a part of each step of the planning process. Dementia-friendly holidays can be great, but they’re probably not going to look the same as holidays before a person had dementia.

Below, we’ve listed some tips for success when it comes to dementia-friendly holidays in the UK.

Ask your elderly loved one their opinions

When an older person has dementia, it’s really important to respect their wishes as much as possible. Even if an older person isn’t capable of making some decisions – such as whether they’re safe to drive or not – maybe they can still make decisions about other things, such as whether they prefer to wear a blue coat or a red one.

The very first step in planning dementia-friendly holidays is to check with your elderly loved one and see how they feel. If they don’t like the idea of leaving home, maybe it’s best to visit some local places instead.

Know your older loved one’s needs and what they’re comfortable with

Relatives of elderly people with dementia often find that they’re becoming experts in dementia – and experts in their older loved one’s needs, abilities and preferences.

That’s all really useful knowledge when you’re planning a dementia-friendly holiday because it helps you predict what might and might not work.

You might want to consider:

  • Whether your older relative struggles with adjusting to heat or cold, or dislikes wearing a coat
  • Whether your older loved one has fears, anxieties or even hallucinations that could cause problems
  • Whether your older loved one is typically calm or more often distressed
  • Whether your elderly loved one is likely to wander away or become lost, and how you can avoid that
  • How important routine is to your older loved one, and how you might try to stick to a routine even away from home
  • What sensory issues your older relative has – do they hate the feel of water? Or do they like looking at and petting animals?
  • How your older relative might handle being away from their familiar space and objects
  • What dietary and food requirements your older loved one has
  • Any medical needs and how they’ll be provided for, including issues like incontinence and finding the bathroom in an unfamiliar place.

Plan ahead

Once you’ve pinpointed your older loved one’s needs and any potential challenges, it’s time to plan ahead to try to avoid as many issues and arrange for as much help as possible.

For example, many seniors with dementia might become frightened or disoriented in a really busy transit hub or if they have to wait in a long queue, so it’s often a good idea to travel at less busy times of day and year. If your older relative might get confused in a new space and not know how to find the bathroom, you could print out or buy a sign and ask your hotel if they can help you stick it to the bathroom door in your suite. You might also need to bring tools with you such as dementia-friendly cutlery.

Don’t hesitate to look for accessibility help at each step of the way. For example, Heathrow Airport offers a guide for flyers with dementia. However, some accessibility services need to be booked in advance, so be sure to book as early as possible.

It's also wise to do a lot of research and be aware of exactly what you’ll encounter each day. When you’re not travelling with someone who has dementia, it might be okay to play some things by ear. That’s less of a good plan when dementia is involved. You’ll need to know how long journeys will be and what facilities will be available each place you go.

It's a good idea, too, to ensure that the person with dementia has information with them that will help them be reunited with you if they get lost. That might be phone numbers, pictures of your hotel, or any other useful information.

Lastly, you might want to get a personal alarm with GPS tracking for your elderly loved one. This ensures that you’re never unaware of your older loved one’s location – and if you want to check where they are, you can send a simple text message to get a map sent to you.

Go with the flow

Now for a piece of contradictory advice – although we said that planning ahead is essential, it’s just as essential to go with the flow.

The interests and feelings of a person with dementia can be unpredictable. If they lose interest in an activity, there’s no use in trying to force them to pay attention to that activity again. It’s far better to go with the flow and try a new activity. In fact, this is why planning ahead is important – because it gives you options for what you might do if Plan A doesn’t work out.

Look for accessible activities

Don’t forget that there are many activities and events available that are designed with special accessibility features – and some of these can be great activities for a person with dementia. For example, relaxed performances of plays might allow audience members to get up and leave any time, rather than having to wait until the interval.

Try dementia-friendly hotels or travel services

Lastly, you can consider travel experiences that are specifically designed for people with dementia. It’s always worth searching your destination for dementia-friendly hotels. UK holidaymakers might try out a dementia-friendly hotel room in Scotland, which includes features like strong colour contrast in its furnishings to help people with dementia understand what they are seeing. Another option is dementia-friendly holiday cottages in Yorkshire, which have walled gardens so that people with dementia can enjoy nature without the risk of wandering away.

In addition to dementia-friendly hotels, UK families can also try planned holidays from companies specifically catering to people with dementia. These companies include Dementia Adventure and Revitalise.

Keeping older people with dementia safe, whether they’re on holiday or at home

As we’ve mentioned, one of the concerns to think about when you’re on holiday with a senior who has dementia is that they might get lost or wander away. An elderly personal alarm with GPS tracking ensures that you don’t have to wonder where your older loved one is – you’ll always know.

That’s not only useful on holiday, either. You can set a geo-fence on the alarm that sends you an alert when the wearer leaves a specific area. In other words, you don’t have to worry about not knowing if your older loved has wandered away from their home.

And what if your older loved one realises they are lost? Then they can simply press one button on their alarm to get in touch with you.

At SureSafe, all GPS alarms we offer also include automatic fall detection. This functionality detects when its wearer has fallen and calls for help all by itself, even if the wearer is unconscious or has severe dementia and isn’t able to press a button to call for help. It’s another layer of peace of mind for seniors with dementia, whether they’re at home or not.

Ultimately, caring for an older loved one with dementia isn’t always easy – but SureSafe’s personal alarms can help. If you’d like to know more about what our highly reviewed, easy-to-use alarms can do, just give us a call on 0800 112 3201, use our live chat or request a call back.

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