Baby Boomer Real Story Series
Taking Care of Our Aging Parents
By Jeannie Lange
Taking Care of Mom –
Vacation? Are We Crazy?
Most caregivers would rightly tell you that taking an elderly person with dementia or Alzheimer’s on vacation is a BAD idea. The trauma of traveling and living in a different location for even one night can set off all sorts of behavioral issues.
In spite of that, my husband and I decided to take Mom with us for our week in the mountains. It’s close enough to drive in five hours (normally) and our little tree house there has a second bedroom and bath just for her so we thought it might work out.
It was a much needed vacation. We’ve greatly reduced our weekend camping and skipped a summer vacation since bringing Mom to live with us. We weren’t willing to give up our timeshare week.
That left us with the issue of Mom’s care. Family members work or have children so outside help would be needed if we didn’t take her. Although I checked into in home respite care, like a parent of young children, I had no desire to suddenly throw Mom in the hands of a stranger.
Decision made, I packed surreptitiously so Mom wouldn’t suspect. Better to let Mom know the morning we were leaving rather than letting her work herself into a frenzy.
The drive, as expected, took longer than normal but went well. Mom snoozed, watched the scenery and enjoyed our stop for lunch and snacks.
Given her dementia, she settled into her temporary “home” pretty well. We brought her bedside lamp and the roll around foot stool that she uses when she watches TV to make her feel at home. She struggled with the queen bed a bit because she is used to her twin but once I helped her turn down the covers each night, she would settle in just fine.
Our wings were clipped a bit because many of our typical activities were unsuitable for Mom. We still managed to have a great time!
The highlight of the week was the visit of a cockatoo from a nearby bird attraction. Didi, a beautiful white cockatoo, ran across the table and right up Mom’s arm to rest on her shoulder. Didi then proceeded to preen, even feeling comfortable enough to stand on one leg on Mom’s shoulder so she could reach some hard spots. Mom loved the attention and talked so quietly to the bird, showing no fear at all.
Mom also enjoyed a few meals out including a potluck with music by three gentlemen we have known for a long time. Friends staying close by spent an evening and day with us and we even put Mom in a wheelchair and took her shopping and to the national park for a visit to their museum and a walk outdoors.
Did the week go off without a hitch? No, but it was still enjoyable. The schedule is what made it work and next week, I’ll give you an inside look at that.