Have Dementia: Will Travel (Still) Part One
My next few blogs will be about traveling with dementia and are NOT an endorsement for the cruise lines.
Most of us have had experiences with our memory such as not being able to remember names. However, for those of us with major short term memory loss, the loss is so much more. Staying around home and having a regular routine makes life a bit easier for me. Traveling is another story.
My husband and I are taking an anniversary cruise in celebration of our fifth anniversary. Preparation for an extended trip was hellish for me and all I really had to do was pack my clothes... My husband has had to make ALL the arrangements. From the very start, he had to make the many phone calls to the cruise lines. During the process, we changed our minds many times, changing ships and destinations until we found just the right one for us. During that time, Bill would tell me where we were going and on what ship...and I could never remember when asked. When we finally chose our current cruise, Bill continued to make calls to get upgrades and discounts. He has had to ask that we have distilled water for my CPAP and a refrigerator for my insulin. I can no longer make those types of phone calls because I get very confused.
And then, there's the little problem with shore excursions-which ones to take. Long lists of available tours off ship on each island are listed on the Royal Caribbean website. As in past blogs, I have stated that the fewer choices I have, the better. We had to print out the lists several times before I could figure out which ones might be best. I kept losing the lists...then I'd forget what I had chosen, so I had to go through the lists again...this happened several times before we decided it might be best to just wait until we got aboard the ship.
Before leaving, friends would ask me where we would be going. I would jokingly say, "Who cares as long as it is warm?" when in actuality, I could not recall the names of the islands we would be visiting. Of the six islands we would visit, I could usually name, maybe, three. And it was impossible for me to tell anyone what it is that we will be doing on each island, even though I was instrumental in choosing the activities.
So what do I do to help me in this planning stage? I used to be able to say, "Okay, I need __ pants and ___shirts. And then, I would find so many of each and just pack them in the suitcase. I can't work like that anymore. Now, I need a great deal more structure. Here are some of the ways I made preparing for the cruise easier:
• I had to list on a piece of paper each of the twelve days, write where we would be, the activities planned, and the dress code for dinner. I printed out several copies of this and used one with the next idea. The cruise line will give us a paper each day listing all the information and activities being offered aboard ship... It is too much for me to take in all at once. I need small chunks.
• Using that list, I wrote out the type of clothing I would need for each day. Then I laid out an outfit for each day, mostly capris and a shirt, onto my bed. I printed out labels to attach to each which told the day and outfit. I pinned a label to each blouse. I, then, packed these outfits into my suitcase in the order I would be using them.
• I used my computer to make a comprehensive I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) list which was then saved onto a flash drive. I included all my condition, medications, and doctors' names and phone numbers. I did the same for my husband. This list will also be handy for posting on our refrigerator back home.
• I assembled all my medications weeks in advance. It's difficult sometimes now with the new system of sending away for medications for three months at a time. It's not like you can get refills overnight. Planning is of the essence as they (whoever that is) says...
So, we have made all preparations for our cruise. Wish us luck! My next blog will be getting to the port, boarding the ship, and getting acquainted with our new surroundings.