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Dementia and travel overseas


Registered User
Sep 3, 2021
I am trying to weigh up the pros and cons of taking my 85 year old mum on holiday to sri lanka for a couple of weeks later this year. I know its going to be challe ging but she has often talked about how nice it would be to see the place that she grew up. It will also be a chance to catch up with relatives whom she is unlikely to see again. I also am keen to go to catchup with my cousins. It was a trip i was planning after i retired in february 2020 but for obvious reasons, could not go ahead.

My brother and husband are against the idea. Apart from not knowing what will happen with the virus, we dont know how such a big change would affect her orientation and confusion levels. She is still continent and can hold a conversation but often thinks her mum is still alive.
My brother and husband are totally against us going but i feel its our last chance and would be a great thing to do while she still can.
I am going to do some investigations about flights travel and medical insurance and find out what would be the most suitable accommodation to stay in etc but would be grateful for any advice from anyone who may have done something similar. I see mum every day for the last couple of years since she and my brother moved close to me.

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
Does your brother live with your mother? I ask because, with respect, he may have a greater insight into what your mother is like on a day to day basis and at all times of the day and night. Just a thought.

Why are your brother and husband opposed to the idea?


Registered User
Sep 3, 2021
My brother does live with mum but he is at work from 6 am to 6 pm or later. I therefore spend most of the day with mum since i retired. I guess they are both worried that she will become more confused and disorientated if she goes there. She quite often thinks her home is in London which was where the family home was for almost 40 years and therefore wants to go there. She also does not sleep well at night, getting up at 2 am thinking its morning and making toast for herself at that time. When i stay the night, if my brother is away, i will try to encourage her to go back to sleep, which she will do sometimes but often she will get up again a short while later, unless i am in the same room as her and can catch her in time. Both my husband and brother think she will get worse when she is out there but i am hoping that the contact with relatives she still remembers will give her great happiness. She is still continent although she can no longer cook and i help her get dressed in the morning. She has a bit of arthritis too and walks with a stick but her abilities and how in touch with reality changes from day to day.
I know that i wont be able to predict all the difficulties that may arise but thought that if i could work out solutions for most of them with the help of family over there, it might not be so bad.


Registered User
Sep 6, 2017
I am sorry @Nuwara but your mum sounds like she is at the stage where this kind of trip will be very difficult although I understand why you want to go and why you would like your mum to have this last chance to see family who live so far.

What if you tried her here in this country just to see how it goes. Book a weekend or a few days away somewhere not too far and see how she copes in a completely different environment. Self catering may be an idea and your husband can go with you for support. If she can't cope with a short trip then you will know that your trip abroad is pretty much out of the question.

I eventually stopped taking my dad to my house because it became far to difficult for him to cope with anywhere that wasn't his own home.

Sorry I am not much more help but it would be a long way to go for a spoilt holiday for both of you.


Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
we went to kent for my sons wedding 2 yrs ago before he was diagnosed and stayed in a pub. we went on the coach and only overnight. it was so bad that i had to dress him and change him for the journey back. he sobbed in the middle of victoria coach station because he couldnt cope and was overwhelmed. i got help and he was helped onto the coach with the aid of a wheelchair and being the first one on. it was too crowded and too many people. i was thinking, will your mum be flying so have to cope with the airport? my husband was relieved to get home.


Volunteer Host
Mar 2, 2017
It is a nice idea to go back to somewhere that was once a familiar and important place @Nuwara I am reminded of a friend who took her father to County Durham for that same reason. It was a very rural location that had probably altered very little in the years since he was last there. But he would not believe that it was the same place.

That was only a day trip. Imagine if you went through all the considerable challenges and made it to Sri Lanka only for your mum to deny that you were there. Or maybe just shrug her shoulders.

What an effort you will have made and with no certainty that it will mean anything. I took my wife to the USA to see her son. Despite being able to see the Empire State Building from our apartment at Hoboken she would not agree that we were in New York. She recognised the place alright. Her grandfather had owned property there. It was Gateshead, somewhere we could walk to from home.

You might be lucky and both have a marvellous time but it will take monumental effort to even get there. You need to be really sure before committing to this.


Registered User
Feb 9, 2017
hi @Nuwara, my MIL went regularly to visit her daughter in the USA for a few years, the last 3 years she went MIL was in the early stages of Alzheimers. She would be agitated and confused for weeks beforehand and it took at least a week after her return for her confusion to abate.
She had a travelling companion but even then MIL would leave her in the airport terminal as of course "she didn't need anyone as she knew what she was doing". For the last trip her companion refused to go unless it was a direct flight as MIL got lost at Heathrow airport after changing from Manchester the year before.
We stopped the visits when MIL was much better than your mum sounds. MIL would be up pacing in the night in the USA , packing/ unpacking her suitcase and waking people up. SIL agreed to stop the visits as she had a really distressing episode where sister in law told her she was having a shower, MIL forgot and then she was running around the house shouting and distressed thinking she had been abandoned.
After that SIL tried holidays in the UK but that stopped when SIL woke one morning in the shared bedroom to find MIL missing. She had got up in the night, got out of the room and was found in her nightdress freezing cold and wet with urine. The hotel CCTV showed she had been wandering the corridors for about 3 hours.
Even now MIL is still well orientated in her own home and does not wander at night at home - if your mum is already wandering in her own home and confused re the time of day such a long trip will cause a lot of problems.


Registered User
Aug 30, 2013
Don't do it.
Plain and simple, there are too many unknowns, as to how she will react.
Travel insurance will be difficult, would the Airline actually allow her to fly, particularly if there was an incident at the airport.



Registered User
Oct 27, 2016
About 3 years ago, I took a trip to the USA and remember well a couple who caused all sorts of problems on the flight. At check in the assistant asked me if I would be prepared to swap seats so that a lady could sit next to her husband who may be frightened on the flight. Why they were not booked together to sit I don't know. I said yes and got talking to the lady once in the cabin. She told me her husband had dementia and she needed reassure him to stop him wandering around. I had some empathy with this as I had seen all these things with my mother in law. Well once in the air, he became very distressed and started shouting. The poor lady was embarrassed and could do little to stop it. All through the flight, (10 hours), he tried to wander, ask other passengers where he was , eventually he stayed in his seat and fell asleep. Obviously, none of this may happen with your loved one, but having seen what may happen, I would say , don't do it. Just don't.