There are many benefits to going away on holiday for a person with dementia. If planned well, the experience can be a positive one for everyone involved.

New experiences can help build confidence for a person with dementia, but it’s still important to keep to their usual routine as much as possible to give them a feeling of familiarity.

Going back to places the person visited many years ago, or where they used to live, can also be helpful in bringing back memories. Most people have visited the seaside at some point in their lives, so just a simple trip to a beach can bring back happy memories from childhood that can increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

If the person with dementia was born in a different country, revisiting those places can aid them in recalling memories and give them a sense of belonging.

Being out in the fresh air in pleasant surroundings can also help improve the mood of a person with dementia and connect them to nature, stimulating their senses and encouraging feelings of wellness.

Before planning a trip for someone with dementia, there are several things that you should consider:

  • How do their current symptoms affect their daily life, such as dealing with new surroundings, changes in types of food etc.
  • Consider whether they enjoyed travelling and going on holiday before they were diagnosed with dementia. If they did not, it’s unlikely to be a pleasant experience for them now.
  • Involve the person with dementia in discussions about going away to see where they may like to go. If their dementia has progressed to a stage where they are unable to make any decisions in this regard, perhaps you need to consider whether a holiday is going to be beneficial in the long run, as it could cause distress to the person
  • Short trips tend to work better than long holidays. Day trips are a good compromise if you’re concerned about staying somewhere overnight that is unfamiliar.
  • The form of travel and length of the journey must be considered to ensure the person is comfortable and has their needs met. If travelling by car, you’ll need to consider breaking the journey up with short stops along the way to allow for toilet breaks, so ensure your route caters for this. If travelling by plane or rail, the UK now has a sunflower lanyard scheme that people with hidden disabilities can wear so that staff and other people are aware that they have hidden needs and may require more support. For flying, you may need to let the airline know that you will be travelling with a person who has dementia. Most people with a stable condition do not require medical clearance to fly, but some airlines may require it.
  • If travelling through security, consider whether the person with dementia would understand the need to remove certain items or if this would cause them distress.
  • Ensure you’re seated next to the person with dementia if travelling on public transport and ask for an aisle seat if the person you are with can get up and wander around so that you can accompany them.
  • Whilst you are away, check if you’ll still be able to contact any places that usually offer support. If you become unwell whilst away, make sure there will be someone else there who is able to support the person with dementia whilst you recover.
  • If the person with dementia is religious, check to see if they’ll be able to follow their usual religious routines in the place you’re visiting.
  • If you decide it would be better not to travel, you can still bring a holiday feeling to the person with dementia. This could include activities like going on small day trips, ordering in food that’s associated with a country they used to enjoy going to, watching ‘virtual’ tours of places abroad online, looking through books or photos from places they used to visit and playing music from the places they were familiar with.
  • If they have family that live in a different country and they are unable to visit them, setting up video calls can be a good way for them to revisit those familiar places too. The person abroad can walk around with their device and show them the places they used to know and love on the screen, to give them a sense of reconnection to that place from the comfort and safety of their armchair.