Vacation Advice for Caregivers
Summer vacation season is in full swing, and many people are making plans to get away. For some, the most difficult decisions are choosing where to go and when. For caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, there are a host of other things to consider.
“Vacations provide a chance to recharge one’s batteries and refocus,” says Molly Fogel, L.C.S.W., director of educational and social services at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). “Whether going away with the individual in your care, or taking some time away from the day-to-day caregiving duties, vacations can help prevent caregiver burnout and help improve outcomes for both the caregiver and the person in his or her care.”
AFA offers the following vacation planning tips:
Take stock of the situation – Before making plans, consult with the individual’s physician to see if a trip is advisable.
Stick to the routine — Changes in routine can be disorienting to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses. Try to mirror your loved one’s routine where possible, for example, keeping the same bed and waking times, and taking meals at the time to which the individual is accustomed. This can help lessen anxiety.
Be prepared – Determine the travel itinerary ahead of time and make sure all who are traveling, as well as loved ones at home, have a copy. In addition, pack medications, doctors’ contact information, a list of allergies, and emergency contact information. Scope out nearby pharmacies and medical institutions and inquire if they take the individual’s insurance. Inform the hotel staff of the individual’s condition and any specific needs.
Make it a staycation – If the individual with Alzheimer’s disease is unable to travel, consider a day trip with an activity he enjoys, or plan a theme night. Instead of going to Italy, for instance, have an Italian-themed night with food, music, Italian food, playing Italian music, and seeing an Italian film.
Go It Alone – Although it may seem an impossible thought, there are benefits to caregivers taking a vacation without their loved one. Enlist another family member, such as a sibling or close family friend, to provide care. In addition, some assisted living and skilled nursing residences offer short-term stays for caregiver respite.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, based in New York, is a non-profit organization that unites more than 2,500 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals living with dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a national, toll-free helpline (866-232-8484) staffed by licensed social workers, educational conferences and materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers and “AFA Partners in Care” dementia care training for healthcare professionals. For more information about AFA, call 866-232-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.