Is it safe to travel with a person living with dementia?
Q: Dear Regina, I need to travel out of the country to be with my daughter for an emergency situation. I care for my mum and I want to take her with me but I understand that we should not move people with dementia out of their surroundings. What will happen if I take her?
A: People with dementia travel all the time for many different reasons and yes it is challenging and can cause a lot of confusion and disorientation which may be compounded with anxious behaviours. On the other hand the travel will be just fine. You may notice anxious behaviours after the travel. She will know that something is different if you were to leave her at home and still experience anxiety but she is in her familiar environment so she may adjust easier.
It is best to do what is convenient for you in your emergency with preparation for your mom’s comfort weather you take her or leave her with care takers.
If you take her let people that you are travelling with know her condition as you will get more support that way. People can be rude during stressful times but I notice if I tell people around us thank you for being kind and understanding, my mom has dementia without my mom hearing or I pass out cards so I do not have to repeat myself. The workers and people on the plane are more at ease when they know what is going on. Hopefully you are going with another person so you can both have help. Some people take medication for their loved ones that can help calm them in case the travel is long and they become anxious. Talk to her doctor.
If you choose to let her stay with caretakers have a way they can call you even with skype as this will comfort her if her anxiety increases. And of course leave all the emergency contacts for the care takers. Your situation is unique and your choice is supported either way. There is no absolute right decision. It is based on your needs and the needs of your mom and you just make it work.
Q: Dear Regina, My aunty believes that I am taking her things. She doesn’t remember that I am the one taking care of her. I do all her errands for her. I do not know how to deal with this. We just argue about it. I know it is the disease but it is very stressful when she is in this mood. Is there a better way to cope with this behaviour?
A: This is a struggle for most family caregivers. Try not to be hard on yourself when making mistakes. This is hard. Train yourself not to take these accusations personal. Praying, meditation and deep breathing can really help you focus while she accuses you of taking things.
Before you see your aunty you should pray and meditate on a positive mindset for you and your day. Ask for guidance and peace for your day.
In the moment of the accusation take a deep breath in and slowly breathe out three times before you respond. In fact, walk into another room to do so. This will bring oxygen to your frontal lobe and cause you to think more rationally so you remember it is the disease and you can respond better.
Afterwards evaluate what worked and what did not and build your coping skills based on your evaluation.
Understand from her perspective it is real to her even though it hurts you as it is not true. Not taking it personal but respecting her belief by saying you are sorry and you will bring it back (hopefully you know where hiding places are) or do a search with her. I can remember a time I was accused of taking something and it was found in an odd place. I just said “oh goodness! I am so sorry I forgot I put it there, What was I thinking? Can you forgive me?” This was calming for the moment.
Often people with dementia do not remember that they misplaced the item. Confronting and pointing it out that it was them that lost the item causes confusion because their brain does not have the information and frankly they just would not do something like that. So you are helping them retain their dignity by not reminding them that they are forgetting and have memory issues.
If the delusions or hallucinations are causing distress for your aunty, take her to her doctor. She may need medical attention.
Another tip would be to duplicate her lost items.
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