Date: May 8, 2024

Author: Pete Imbesi

Those who suffer from dementia often thrive on routine. As a result, taking dementia patients out of their usual environment can be a challenge, especially for a vacation or long visit where returning home isn’t an option. Traveling with dementia is possible and with a little care and preparation, you can minimize stress and avoid a negative dementia routine disruption. In this article, we’ll offer some tips on taking dementia patients on vacation, and provide insight into why your seniors may be feeling stressed from their dementia and saying they want to go home.

For those dealing with dementia, stressful changes in routine — like moving to an assisted living facility or being hospitalized — can result in what is often called dementia routine disruption. In some cases, the stress of a major life event and the disruption of their daily routine can lead to worsening symptoms and an overall decline in health.

According to Alison Lynn, MSW, LCSW, director of social work of the Penn Memory Center at Penn Medicine, any disruption of your loved one’s daily routine will likely cause some disorientation, but this is normal, and if handled properly, shouldn’t pose any long-term risk.

Tips for Dementia and Travel

If you’re traveling with a parent or loved one who has dementia, the best way to minimize risk of anxiety and confusion is to have a plan in place. Below are some tips for you and your family to discuss before traveling with dementia:

●       Where is the best place for someone with dementia to travel? – if you are concerned about taking dementia patients on vacations that require a lot of travel, consider starting with a trip that is close to home as a test run. This is a good way to identify potential stressors and practice strategies for mitigating anxiety.

●       Have a travel plan that accommodates their needs – once you’ve selected a destination, make sure you have a travel plan that minimizes opportunities for stress — for example, avoiding layovers on flights or long uncomfortable car rides. If you are flying, calling the airline in advance to let them know you are traveling with a dementia patient can help reduce wait times at security check. Even if your senior can walk, consider renting a wheelchair to minimize physical exertion.

●       Communicate your situation – if staying at a resort or hotel, make staff aware of your loved one’s condition. While taking dementia patients on vacation, there is a risk of them wandering off while looking for a bathroom, bedroom, etc. in a new place. Letting staff know your loved one may need an extra eye on them and having a plan in place if they do go missing (like making sure they have wearable identification that cannot be removed or a GPS tracking bracelet so they can easily be located) is key to minimizing this risk.

●       Monitor their energy level (and yours!) – while traveling with a parent or loved one with dementia, make sure there is a lot of opportunity for rest for both the patient and the caregiver. We can sometimes put pressure on ourselves to take as much advantage of a vacation as possible, but overdoing it will only lead to stress for you and your loved one.

●       Talk with their doctor – before any major travel with dementia, make sure you discuss your travel plans with their primary care physician. In some cases, their doctor may even be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication to be used in case of an emergency.

Download Our FREE Path to Care Guide

Dementia and Wanting to Go Home

Even if you plan everything perfectly, your loved one may experience negative side effects of dementia routine disruption. The most common being your dementia patient wanting to go home. Feelings of wanting to “go home” are often a sign your senior may be feeling insecure or anxious, and is longing for a sense of familiarity. This is normal, and while it may be upsetting to hear your loved one is in distress while on vacation, the key is to keep your cool and remain a calming presence.

According to David A. Wolk, MD, co-director of the Penn Memory Center and a professor of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania many dementia patients will mirror the emotions of their Caregiver, so staying calm and helping to reorient your loved one is the best way to help ground them if things go wrong.

Taking dementia patients on vacation can be an amazing opportunity for quality time with your aging loved ones. With a little preparation, traveling with dementia doesn’t have to be a stressful experience – understanding the risks of dementia routine disruption and how to minimize stress is the first step to taking dementia patients out of their environment successfully.

To learn more about our home care services, contact our caregiving team today at 1-800-GRISWOLD or find a Caregiver near you.

Date: May 8, 2024

Author: Pete Imbesi

please enter a zip code, or a more specifc location

Give us a call


*The Griswold service model varies depending on which state the office is in. In some states, our service is solely to refer thoroughly screened professional caregivers. In other states, we employ and supervise the caregivers. In every state, we're 100% focused on quality services and responsiveness to your needs. For each office, you'll see its service model and learn how we can best help you and your family with your home care needs. (See item 7 and item 19 of our current FDD for additional information.)