Dementia is an umbrella term that describes cerebral (brain) conditions that cause a progressive loss of brain function. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, other types include vascular dementia and mixed dementia. All forms of the condition cause confusion, memory loss and problems with speech and comprehension.
The Alzheimer’s Society states that there are 850,000 people in the UK with a form of dementia and it is becoming more common; by 2025, they estimate that this figure will have risen to over one million. Although most people who develop dementia are elderly, there are over 40,000 people under the age of 65 who also have the condition.
If you or someone in the family has dementia, there can be more to think about when it comes to travel. With the right preparation though, a holiday need not be out of reach.
Think about the type of holiday
The key to a great trip away for someone with dementia can be the type of holiday itself. Unfamiliar places and lots of people and activity can be very disorientating for someone with dementia, so choosing a trip that keeps these to a minimum can really help.
A holiday to visit friends or family overseas can be a great option, especially if it’s somewhere you or your loved one has been many times before. A favourite family holiday destination or a place you have returned to several times over the years could also work. Anywhere really that can help the person with dementia feel connected to their surroundings or where plans are less likely to change. Some companies offer holidays created especially for people with dementia and their loved ones. Including options with activities, support for carers and expert care for those with the condition, everyone can enjoy an escape from the everyday. Take a look at Dementia Adventure and Tourism for All to find out more.
Make sure everyone travelling understands the condition
It goes without saying that someone with more severe dementia should never travel alone, although it can also be a challenge travelling with someone who has the condition, even for loved ones and carers. If you can, taking a trip with other friends or family members can ease the pressure on the primary carer. Extra helping hands and pairs of eyes will ensure that he or she is safe and supported, and can ensure that carers also have time to relax.
However many other adults are in your travelling party, make sure everyone understands what the person with dementia needs. Ensure they are aware of any important limitations or difficulties they might experience, especially if they will be helping to care for them over the course of the holiday. That is not to say they must become specialist carers themselves, just that they know what is involved.
Speak to your doctor about your travel plans
Do not hesitate to speak to a GP about the kind of holiday in question. They may have extra advice about travelling with dementia and can provide more medication to cover the trip if need be.
Make extra preparations for flying
If you will be travelling by air, remember to let your airline and departing airport know in advance that you, or someone you will be flying with, has dementia. Some airlines need specific medical information about passengers with conditions that may affect their ability to fly. They may feel the need to refuse to let someone travel alone if there is a possibility that they may become distressed during the flight. It is worth keeping this in mind before booking.
Having said that, giving your airline and airport information in advance can also ensure that extra assistance is arranged. This is something you are entitled to at the airport and on board the flight, as a party including someone with a hidden condition like dementia. It includes assistance at check-in, getting you to your departure gate, and having someone meet you as you leave the plane when you return. Airports can be especially busy and confusing places, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of any help available.
Some UK airports, including Heathrow, are taking steps to become ‘dementia-friendly’ airports, which includes training their staff to be aware and ready to help passengers who have the condition.
Let your accommodation provider know what to expect
In much the same way, it’s a good idea to contact your accommodation provider ahead of your trip to let them know there will be someone with dementia in your party. They may be able to offer some extra assistance or support during your stay. Even if not, you should give them emergency contact details back in the UK, including a name and telephone number. This could be a friend or a relative but should be someone who would know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Have a detailed itinerary
If you have dementia but your GP is happy for you to travel on your own, make sure you write down and have with you a detailed plan for every stage of your journey, so you can refer to it if you feel unsure at any point.
This can be a useful tip for those travelling with someone with dementia too. Having a schedule to refer to can help you feel calm and in control. This can in turn help to relax your travelling companion.
Take a daily photo
While you are travelling, get into the habit of taking a photo of the individual with dementia on your phone. This can be extremely useful if they are separated from you at any point during your trip. Make sure to take both a close-up of their face and a wide-angle image that shows what they are currently wearing. That way you can show people around you exactly who you are looking for.
You could also wear, or give to the person with dementia, an ID bracelet that has a brief description of the condition, as well as contact details that can help you find each other again.
Pack some handy travel gadgets
Noise-cancelling headphones can be a great travel investment if you, or someone you will be travelling with, has dementia. They can help to create a bit of quiet space if there are a lot of unfamiliar noises or activity, such as on a plane or at the airport.
When it comes to taking medication, there are plenty of electronic aids available that can help too. For instance, an automatic dispenser or personal alarm that beeps when medication needs to be taken can make remembering medication one less thing to think about while away from daily routine.
Insurance for dementia
Finally, make sure you have travel insurance for dementia in place before heading off on holiday. At Free Spirit, not only can our dementia travel insurance help you to recoup costs spent on flights and/or accommodation should you need a cancel your trip, we can cover the entire travelling party on one policy. We specialise in providing cover for the majority of existing conditions, including dementia, so if you are planning your next trip, please do not hesitate to contact us or apply online.
While many standard travel insurance companies decline to cover pre-existing conditions such as dementia, a specialist provider like Free Spirit is dedicated to offering medical travel cover. Our travel insurance can cover people of any age with medical conditions*.
In many parts of the world it often does not take much to run up large medical costs, should the unexpected happen. Therefore, Free Spirit travel insurance specifically designed to cover dementia is essential. You need to be certain that you will be able to access the healthcare you might need wherever your travels take you, and that you won’t be left with the bill. Our policy also provides, as standard, cover for cancellation, repatriation, cutting short your trip, personal possessions, passport & documents, travel delay and missed connections.
Contact us today to find out more about our travel insurance for dementia. You can apply for a no-obligation quote online or, if you’d rather speak to someone, call our friendly team of UK-based travel insurance specialists on 0800 170 7704 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm, except Bank Holidays).
*subject to terms, conditions and limits of the insurance policy.