Traveling and Dementia


It’s time for travels and vacations. Exciting? Yes! Stressful? Double Yes! Getting ready for a trip can be a lot of work and even more so when you are traveling with a loved one who has memory loss. Here are some ideas to help make traveling a bit easier and safer.

Plan wisely.

Avoid travel during peak times. Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend may not be the best option. Instead, travel on a weekday morning. If possible have 2 caregivers on the trip, so caregiving responsibilities can be shared. Don’t schedule a tight layover. Allow you and your loved one time to visit the restroom and get from place to place.

Inform the airline of your situation.

Get a letter from your loved one’s physician for the TSA, so you can bypass potential additional screening that may cause stress. Inform the airline and medical service department ahead of time of your specific needs. Most airlines ask for a 48 hour advance notice. You may want to ask for a wheelchair to travel through the airport.

Choose a hotel with interior doors.

When choosing a place to stay, get a hotel with doors that open to an interior hallway. If your loved one wanders, he or she would have to pass through the lobby, where hopefully someone can redirect. If your loved one has limited mobility, call ahead and ask for a room that is close to the check-in area to keep you from walking your loved one down a long hallway.

Keep hotel staff informed.

Print out a picture of your loved one and give it to the front desk (or text/email a picture from your phone). Ask that it be posted for employees and that if anyone sees your loved one alone, for them to call you. When you are in the room for the night, lock and latch the door. If there are two beds, sleep in the one closest to the door, so your loved one has to cross your path to exit. You can also bring a portable door alarm or childproof doorknob cover. New environments can be confusing, so you may want to label areas like the bathroom. Ask the front desk or concierge about nearby pharmacy and health service options in case needed.

Plan for the unexpected.

A small issue can throw off all your plans. Allow extra time for the unexpected. Pack things to keep your loved one entertained: magazines, familiar music and headphones, activities. Also, bring essentials: snacks, water, disposable garments, wipes, prescription medications, over the counter medications, change of clothes. If traveling by car, subscribe to a roadside assistance program and have 2 drivers available if needed.

Bring copies of important documents.

You never know what will happen when you are away from home, so having important documents with you is vital. Bring your loved one’s identification, emergency contact information, physician’s names and contact information, list of current medications, list of drug/food allergies, copies of legal papers (living will, advanced directives, power of attorney), insurance information and a written travel itinerary. Be sure not to pack any of these documents in your suitcase, lest that bag be lost or stolen. Keep them on your person or lock them in a safe at the hotel.

Have identification for both of you.

It is very important that those with memory loss have identification on their person in case they get separated from their family. This could be a Safe Return Bracelet through the Alzheimer’s Association, a DIY identification bracelet, or a laminated card in their pocket. Whether bracelet or card, it needs to have their name and “In case of Emergency, please call… (at least 2 names and phone numbers).” You should also carry a card that says: “I am traveling with someone who has memory loss.” This way, in case you are in a wreck and are unresponsive, the responders will know to look for your loved one.

Take a picture at the beginning of each day.

Once your loved one is up and dressed, take a picture of him or her on your cell phone (deleting yesterday’s picture). If your loved one wanders off, you will have a current photo to show the authorities.

Keep routines as much as possible.

If your loved one is used to eating 3 meals a day, try to eat 3 meals at the usual times. If your loved one goes to bed around 9, try to keep that routine. Getting off schedule can cause even more confusion. Keep in mind time zone changes and how that might affect what time you eat and when medications need to be given.

Keep your daily itinerary simple.

If you are sightseeing, try to break up the sightseeing adventures into smaller outings instead of one, long outing. It may be that your loved one can only handle sightseeing in the morning and needs to rest in the afternoon. You may have to alter your pace. Be flexible. Avoid restaurants and tourist attractions at peak times. Instead, visit at less busy times or choose a less busy restaurant.

If you have any specific questions about traveling with your loved one, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. And if you’re looking for additional information, we found the Alzheimer’s Association’s page on Traveling and Dementia and this page from Light Bridge Healthcare Research on Traveling and Dementia to be helpful.

Choosing a Residential Placement


Being a caregiver is incredibly stressful: addressing daily care needs, managing bills, going to medical appointments, making meals, and keeping up the house. In addition to these things, making decisions about your loved one’s care is difficult. Caregivers spend a great deal of time stressing over if they should place a loved one in a residential care facility and wondering which facility is the right one.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a care decision, take a breath. We’re here to help. These are our best tips on choosing a residential placement. If you have questions after reading this, be sure to give us a call (901.854.1200) or stop by, we would be happy to answer questions and provide support for you and your specific situation.

Step 1: Decide your breaking point.

The big question: “When is the right time to move my loved one to a residential facility?”
There’s no one answer to this question. In our experience, most caregivers have a breaking point in what they can manage at home. For each caregiver, that breaking point is different.

Some examples of stages your loved one might reach that could be a breaking point:

  • Not sleeping at night and disrupting sleep for the rest of the household
  • Incontinence
  • Hoarding becomes excessive
  • Choking on meals consistently

Choose YOUR breaking point. There is no right or wrong time other than waiting too late. When you wait too late, you suffer and don’t manage your own self-care. As a result your loved one suffers because you can no longer provide adequate care.

Step 2: Determine your loved one’s appropriate level of care.

How do you know what level of care is appropriate – traditional assisted living, memory care, nursing home? We suggest asking your loved one’s physician, consulting with a geriatric care manager, or having a facility admission coordinator assess your loved one to make appropriate recommendations.

Step 3: Do your research.

Ask around. What experience have others had with the facilities you are considering? Also, think about location and cost. If you’re planning to visit your loved one often, it would be wise to choose a facility that is within reasonable driving distance from home and/or work.

This is another step when a geriatric care manager may be of great help to you. He or she can help you narrow down the pool of facilities to consider.

Step 4: Take a tour.

Go out and look. Tour several facilities to see what is out there. It is always best to know about the options in the area, so you can make an informed decision when/if the time is right for you.

Take both scheduled and unscheduled tours. Show up unannounced (maybe at a mealtime or on a weekend) to see how things are when staff are not prepared for you to be there. It is important to have a scheduled tour as well. Scheduled tours ensure that the correct staff person will be available to give you the information you need. Understand that not every staff member will be able to answer your questions, so be sure to ask the right person.

When taking a tour, there are lots of things to consider and observe, but don’t stress too much. You can always take a second or third tour if needed. When you tour, use your five senses:

SOUND

  • Do you hear staff talking with residents, including them in conversations?
  • Is staff speaking kindly to residents and one another?
  • Does staff call residents by name?
  • Is there music playing? Is it appropriate and soothing music?

SIGHT

  • Is the facility nicely decorated?
  • Is there natural light?
  • Does it look clean and orderly or chaotic?
  • Ask for a menu. Does the food look appealing?
  • Are people smiling?
  • What do you see the residents doing? Are they watching Jerry Springer or something more appropriate? Are they staring off into space, or do you see them engaged in an activity?

TASTE

  • If you have a meal at the facility during your tour (which is not necessarily common), does the food taste good?

TOUCH

  • Are the floors sticky?
  • Are the tables still sticky from the previous meal?
  • Are there items around for the residents to use? Games, puzzles, sensory items?
  • Is staff providing physical reassurance and attention to residents, such as a hug or a pat on the arm?

SMELL

  • How does the facility smell? Do you smell lunch cooking, or does it smell like bleach?
  • Is there an odor of old urine? If someone has just had a bowel movement then there will likely be an odor, but it should not be a permanent smell.

The best facility is not necessarily the newest/most expensive facility, and the worst facility is not necessarily the oldest/cheapest. There is no one facility that is the best for everyone. Each person and family is different. Different places for different needs.

Bonus Step: Be an advocate.

Once you have chosen a facility and moved your loved one in, know that you are still your loved one’s caregiver. You are still his or her advocate. It is important that you visit, check on your loved one, and make sure that appropriate care is being provided.

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  • May 26, 2017

    Traveling and Dementia


    It’s time for travels and vacations. Exciting? Yes! Stressful? Double Yes! Getting ready for a trip can be a lot of work and even more so when you are traveling with a loved one who has memory loss. Here are some ideas to help make traveling a bit easier and safer.

    Plan wisely.

    Avoid travel during peak times. Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend may not be the best option. Instead, travel on a weekday morning. If possible have 2 caregivers on the trip, so caregiving responsibilities can be shared. Don’t schedule a tight layover. Allow you and your loved one time to visit the restroom and get from place to place.

    Inform the airline of your situation.

    Get a letter from your loved one’s physician for the TSA, so you can bypass potential additional screening that may cause stress. Inform the airline and medical service department ahead of time of your specific needs. Most airlines ask for a 48 hour advance notice. You may want to ask for a wheelchair to travel through the airport.

    Choose a hotel with interior doors.

    When choosing a place to stay, get a hotel with doors that open to an interior hallway. If your loved one wanders, he or she would have to pass through the lobby, where hopefully someone can redirect. If your loved one has limited mobility, call ahead and ask for a room that is close to the check-in area to keep you from walking your loved one down a long hallway.

    Keep hotel staff informed.

    Print out a picture of your loved one and give it to the front desk (or text/email a picture from your phone). Ask that it be posted for employees and that if anyone sees your loved one alone, for them to call you. When you are in the room for the night, lock and latch the door. If there are two beds, sleep in the one closest to the door, so your loved one has to cross your path to exit. You can also bring a portable door alarm or childproof doorknob cover. New environments can be confusing, so you may want to label areas like the bathroom. Ask the front desk or concierge about nearby pharmacy and health service options in case needed.

    Plan for the unexpected.

    A small issue can throw off all your plans. Allow extra time for the unexpected. Pack things to keep your loved one entertained: magazines, familiar music and headphones, activities. Also, bring essentials: snacks, water, disposable garments, wipes, prescription medications, over the counter medications, change of clothes. If traveling by car, subscribe to a roadside assistance program and have 2 drivers available if needed.

    Bring copies of important documents.

    You never know what will happen when you are away from home, so having important documents with you is vital. Bring your loved one’s identification, emergency contact information, physician’s names and contact information, list of current medications, list of drug/food allergies, copies of legal papers (living will, advanced directives, power of attorney), insurance information and a written travel itinerary. Be sure not to pack any of these documents in your suitcase, lest that bag be lost or stolen. Keep them on your person or lock them in a safe at the hotel.

    Have identification for both of you.

    It is very important that those with memory loss have identification on their person in case they get separated from their family. This could be a Safe Return Bracelet through the Alzheimer’s Association, a DIY identification bracelet, or a laminated card in their pocket. Whether bracelet or card, it needs to have their name and “In case of Emergency, please call… (at least 2 names and phone numbers).” You should also carry a card that says: “I am traveling with someone who has memory loss.” This way, in case you are in a wreck and are unresponsive, the responders will know to look for your loved one.

    Take a picture at the beginning of each day.

    Once your loved one is up and dressed, take a picture of him or her on your cell phone (deleting yesterday’s picture). If your loved one wanders off, you will have a current photo to show the authorities.

    Keep routines as much as possible.

    If your loved one is used to eating 3 meals a day, try to eat 3 meals at the usual times. If your loved one goes to bed around 9, try to keep that routine. Getting off schedule can cause even more confusion. Keep in mind time zone changes and how that might affect what time you eat and when medications need to be given.

    Keep your daily itinerary simple.

    If you are sightseeing, try to break up the sightseeing adventures into smaller outings instead of one, long outing. It may be that your loved one can only handle sightseeing in the morning and needs to rest in the afternoon. You may have to alter your pace. Be flexible. Avoid restaurants and tourist attractions at peak times. Instead, visit at less busy times or choose a less busy restaurant.

    If you have any specific questions about traveling with your loved one, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. And if you’re looking for additional information, we found the Alzheimer’s Association’s page on Traveling and Dementia and this page from Light Bridge Healthcare Research on Traveling and Dementia to be helpful.

    March 2, 2017

    Choosing a Residential Placement


    Being a caregiver is incredibly stressful: addressing daily care needs, managing bills, going to medical appointments, making meals, and keeping up the house. In addition to these things, making decisions about your loved one’s care is difficult. Caregivers spend a great deal of time stressing over if they should place a loved one in a residential care facility and wondering which facility is the right one.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a care decision, take a breath. We’re here to help. These are our best tips on choosing a residential placement. If you have questions after reading this, be sure to give us a call (901.854.1200) or stop by, we would be happy to answer questions and provide support for you and your specific situation.

    Step 1: Decide your breaking point.

    The big question: “When is the right time to move my loved one to a residential facility?”
    There’s no one answer to this question. In our experience, most caregivers have a breaking point in what they can manage at home. For each caregiver, that breaking point is different.

    Some examples of stages your loved one might reach that could be a breaking point:

    • Not sleeping at night and disrupting sleep for the rest of the household
    • Incontinence
    • Hoarding becomes excessive
    • Choking on meals consistently

    Choose YOUR breaking point. There is no right or wrong time other than waiting too late. When you wait too late, you suffer and don’t manage your own self-care. As a result your loved one suffers because you can no longer provide adequate care.

    Step 2: Determine your loved one’s appropriate level of care.

    How do you know what level of care is appropriate – traditional assisted living, memory care, nursing home? We suggest asking your loved one’s physician, consulting with a geriatric care manager, or having a facility admission coordinator assess your loved one to make appropriate recommendations.

    Step 3: Do your research.

    Ask around. What experience have others had with the facilities you are considering? Also, think about location and cost. If you’re planning to visit your loved one often, it would be wise to choose a facility that is within reasonable driving distance from home and/or work.

    This is another step when a geriatric care manager may be of great help to you. He or she can help you narrow down the pool of facilities to consider.

    Step 4: Take a tour.

    Go out and look. Tour several facilities to see what is out there. It is always best to know about the options in the area, so you can make an informed decision when/if the time is right for you.

    Take both scheduled and unscheduled tours. Show up unannounced (maybe at a mealtime or on a weekend) to see how things are when staff are not prepared for you to be there. It is important to have a scheduled tour as well. Scheduled tours ensure that the correct staff person will be available to give you the information you need. Understand that not every staff member will be able to answer your questions, so be sure to ask the right person.

    When taking a tour, there are lots of things to consider and observe, but don’t stress too much. You can always take a second or third tour if needed. When you tour, use your five senses:

    SOUND

    • Do you hear staff talking with residents, including them in conversations?
    • Is staff speaking kindly to residents and one another?
    • Does staff call residents by name?
    • Is there music playing? Is it appropriate and soothing music?

    SIGHT

    • Is the facility nicely decorated?
    • Is there natural light?
    • Does it look clean and orderly or chaotic?
    • Ask for a menu. Does the food look appealing?
    • Are people smiling?
    • What do you see the residents doing? Are they watching Jerry Springer or something more appropriate? Are they staring off into space, or do you see them engaged in an activity?

    TASTE

    • If you have a meal at the facility during your tour (which is not necessarily common), does the food taste good?

    TOUCH

    • Are the floors sticky?
    • Are the tables still sticky from the previous meal?
    • Are there items around for the residents to use? Games, puzzles, sensory items?
    • Is staff providing physical reassurance and attention to residents, such as a hug or a pat on the arm?

    SMELL

    • How does the facility smell? Do you smell lunch cooking, or does it smell like bleach?
    • Is there an odor of old urine? If someone has just had a bowel movement then there will likely be an odor, but it should not be a permanent smell.

    The best facility is not necessarily the newest/most expensive facility, and the worst facility is not necessarily the oldest/cheapest. There is no one facility that is the best for everyone. Each person and family is different. Different places for different needs.

    Bonus Step: Be an advocate.

    Once you have chosen a facility and moved your loved one in, know that you are still your loved one’s caregiver. You are still his or her advocate. It is important that you visit, check on your loved one, and make sure that appropriate care is being provided.