Holidays and dementia – tips for during and after the holiday

Once you arrive at the holiday destination, allow yourself time to recover from the journey and settle into the accommodation and new surroundings.

Settling in after arrival

It may take the person with dementia a little while to get used to their new environment. They might find it strange or frightening to be in a place they don’t know.

The following tips can help you both feel more comfortable when you arrive:

  • If you are busy getting things organised, give the person a simple task to engage and include them, such as making a drink or hanging clothes in a wardrobe.
  • If the person with dementia seems unsettled or tired, it may help to have a warm drink, relax and leave the unpacking until later.
  • Where possible, keep to the routine you have at home. For example, have meals at the same time as you normally would, and keep to the same bedtime. See ‘Keeping to a routine on holiday’ below.
  • Place any personal and familiar items in places that are easy for the person with dementia to see. This can help them feel more relaxed and settled in their new surroundings.
  • If the person with dementia has difficulties with continence or using the toilet, ask for a mattress protector and extra sheets to be left in the bedroom in case of accidents. If it’s possible, it may be easier to take a mattress protector with you.
  • Consider the layout of where you are staying and think about ways to help the person get around. You could put up signs that make it clear what each room is. Alzheimer’s Society’s online shop sells reusable signs to help people living with dementia get around safely.
  • People with dementia can easily become disorientated in unfamiliar places, especially if they are alone. For example, they may get lost on the way back from the toilet and begin to panic. If it’s possible, stay in a room with a connected bathroom and keep the bathroom door open when not in use. This will help the person to know where the toilet is at all times.
  • If the place you are staying in has room numbers, make a note of your room number for the person to keep with them at all times. If it isn’t possible for them to carry the note with them, consider writing the room number on the person’s wrist. This can act as a reminder in case the person becomes disorientated or lost.
  • There are various pieces of assistive technology that can help someone in an unfamiliar environment, or alert you if the person with dementia is in danger. You should talk to an occupational therapist before your trip if you think any of these could be useful.

Making the most of the holiday

Find activities that you both enjoy to have a meaningful and relaxing break. You can also take photos and keep a holiday diary to help the person remember things you have done together when you are back home. 

The activities handbook

Alzheimer's Society produces a booklet full of activity ideas for people affected by dementia. 

Find out more

Keeping to a routine on holiday

While a change of scene can be good for a person’s mental and physical health, routine is very important for people living with dementia. They may find new surroundings frightening or be confused by a change to their day-to-day activities.

There are ways to keep some of the familiarity of the person’s routine when on holiday. This can help the person to feel settled and relaxed in a different environment. These include:

  • packing items that the person would recognise from home, like a pillowcase or bath towel
  • using the same room fragrance, soap, laundry or cleaning products that are used in the person’s home
  • taking items that the person uses when doing everyday tasks, like a favourite mug, a comb or a prayer mat
  • keeping to regular routines of eating, sleeping and taking medication
  • using memory aids as the person would at home, if they use any – for example, a clock that displays the date or a whiteboard for daily reminders.

Returning home

When you return home from a holiday, it may take a little time to settle back into your normal routine. It may be a relief to be home again in a familiar setting – or perhaps you would have liked to stay away for longer.

If the holiday went well

In some cases, holidays can help to improve the confidence of people with dementia. Perhaps you both tried new experiences and activities. If this is the case, you could continue the holiday feeling by organising a day trip.

You could also look into what's available locally that can allow you to continue with these activities. Use our online directory tool to see what's available near you.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

If you need more support after the holiday

If the holiday was not as relaxing as you would have hoped, you may feel like you need more support in your caring role going forward. Anyone who cares for a person with dementia is entitled to an assessment of their own needs as a carer by the local authority. The assessment will be different depending on whether you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

This will give you an opportunity to discuss what breaks you are able to have from caring. In some cases, social services are able to put support in place so you can have a break. 

If the person with dementia was behaving differently on holiday, or if you are concerned about changes in their behaviour now that you have returned, contact their GP. It may just be that the person needs some time in a familiar environment to settle in. However, it is always reassuring to rule out any medical reason for the change.

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