Have Dementia Will Travel, Part 2
(I am addressing this blog to both the dementia sufferer and to the caregiver.)
Traveling can be very stressful-even for the most seasoned traveler. Add a dose of dementia (not to mention a dose of diabetes) and traveling becomes more difficult.
My husband and I have just returned from the cruise I wrote about in my last blog. The strategies that I wrote about, I put into action. Packing my clothes, using a chart of each day and labeling each day's outfits certainly helped. I never ran out of clothes! Better yet, I never had to figure out what I would wear as each day progressed. What a relief THAT was!
I took the advice of Joseph and others who suggested that I keep a diary of each day. With my husband's help, I was able to re-create each day in my log. I also drew the layout of our suite-which we had been able to get for just a little more than a regular balcony cabin. (I have found that drawing makes me really connect with what is around me, and, thus, helps forge memories.) These tools, along with all the pictures we took, will enable me to remember what happened during those wonderful twelve days.
Even with all my strategies, I couldn't have gone on the cruise without my husband! He was constantly re-directing my path. I couldn't keep locations straight. Do I go up to the Concierge Lounge and down to breakfast and lunch...or is it the other way around? Is the dining room upstairs? No? Seven decks down? Really? ...And why is our room number 1284 when we are on the 10th deck? Why isn't it 1084? In addition to these problems, I kept confusing 1284 with 1248... I had twelve days of confusion. I must admit that I didn't try to forge out on my own onboard ship...I didn't feel confident that I'd really find my way back to our cabin. I had visions of me wandering the ship or curled up on one of the overly stuffed chairs, spending the night. (Well, that is a bit farfetched, but still kind of funny to think about...)
All in all, it was a wonderful cruise...what I remember.
• I know we got off on Dominica where we got into the sulfur pools. That felt hot but good. The cool pool which followed felt even better!
• We got off in Barbados...and got some gorgeous pottery from Earthworks. I've already taken it out and washed it up-already used it, too!
• We got off on another island, but I can't remember its name. We took a tour, but I can't remember what it was at this moment.
• The dining room attendants were absolutely wonderful! We got to hear a lot about their country, India, and I discovered that I have a great love for Indian food...our waiter brought me some, in addition to what I had ordered, at each dinner. Talk about being overfed!!
All in all, I encourage caregivers to travel with their loved ones if the dementia has not progressed too far. The daily differences in the typical day will provide your loved one with a chance for a change in scenery and encourage him/her to adjust to change. I know most people think that one must structure the day in order for the person with dementia to feel "safe" or "comfortable". I assert that each one of us with dementia is on our own unique path with the disease. I also assert that we need to be pushed whenever possible to be all that we can be and to do all that we can do.
Traveling may be stressful...but it is for everyone, whether or not one has dementia. Try it, if at all possible. Start small with a day trip...move on to a couple days... You may be pleasantly surprised at how well it goes, after all and how many memories you can build!