Tips for Visiting With Alzheimer's Sufferers During the Holidays
People have been asking us for advice on how to best handle holiday visits for a parent who has Alzheimer's disease. Typically, we are asked if it is safe or wise for Mom or Dad to travel alone, and whether it will it be a good and calming experience or cause more confusion for the person.
Before making any travel plans, it is important to consider the stage of your parent's illness and any behaviors that he or she may be exhibiting. Traveling alone may be possible in the early stages of the disease. However, moving from place to place -- from one child's home to another and yet another -- can often be unsettling and may create more confusion when your parent returns. If you feel it can work, keep in mind that the most successful visits will be to fewer places and to ones with which the person is already familiar. Perhaps, several relatives who live near each other can travel to one location so your parent can get to see more of the family simultaneously.
You may want your parent -- one who does not have a tendency to wander -- to practice traveling alone by arranging a short trip within your own town to see how it goes. If a parent has a predisposition to become agitated easily, try to avoid places that get very crowded --- keep in mind that buses, trains and planes are crowded, especially at this time of the year.
When a parent is in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, and you feel that it is not wise to let him or her travel alone, it is a good idea to plan your trip in advance. Take things with you that will keep your parent calm, such as a deck of cards, magazines and some favorite music. If you are driving, you might want to consider having another driver or passenger in the car to help care for your loved one. Plan to stop on a regular basis to use the bathroom or just to stretch. If Mom or Dad becomes agitated, pull over and try to calm him or her; never try to calm someone down while you are driving.