Love in the face of Dementia: A Georgia family inspires others

Love in the face of Dementia: A Georgia family inspires others
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 6:11 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Holiday travel is already stressful but this weather brings extra challenges especially for families traveling with someone who has Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Tools like music have become a string capable of pulling Doug Jones’ mind back to life he built with his wife.

“If it is a bad day, I get confused easily, I have no idea what I am doing. It is just a lot of frustration,” said Doug Jones speaking on his Dementia diagnosis, “If it is a bad day, I get confused easily, I have no idea what I am doing. It is just a lot of frustration.”

“It wasn’t until I took it upon myself to research and find a support group (that I have been a member of for the last 5 years) that has helped me learn and understand what everybody else is going through. I thought I was the only one on the planet,” said Shana Jones.

Any kind of change that could interfere with a person’s routine can impact someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia; that could include a winter freeze, that could include travel over the holiday. Shana says it has been helpful to bring something familiar on trips, in case Doug is confused or stressed; something to help bring him back “home” again.

The main lesson Shayna and Doug are hoping to share through their story is that life goes on, happy moments still come and joy is still present here.

“I am still here. I am different but I am still here,” said Doug.

“It is going to be a really great Christmas. Will there be sad moments? Yeah...but we have each other and at the end of the day I think that is all that matters,” said Shana.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a helpline that you can call if you’re feeling stressed out this holiday season: 800-272-3900. The line is staffed with social workers who will answer 24/7, even on Christmas.

As far as traveling with someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia:

- The Jones family recommends:

* Pack at least one week’s worth of extra medication

* Bring games you can play with your loved ones indoors

* Bring your loved one’s favorite music

* Plan for the unexpected: have extra clothing, towels, and wipes.

* Know where the nearest urgent care or hospital is

* Bring nightlights. Being in a new space can be disorienting.

* Be flexible where you can be

- The Alzheimer’s Association recommends:

● Evaluate best mode of travel: Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety. If the destination requires air travel, the Alzheimer’s Association provides these tips on

● Pick a practical destination: Consider everyone’s needs and desires as you plan your trip and discuss the plan with the person living with dementia. Elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours may cause anxiety and confusion. And it is always important to consider destinations that have easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies.

● Simplify your travel itinerary: Try not to overload the person with a lot of directions or too much information.

○ Carry with you an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to family members or friends you will be visiting or to emergency contacts at home.

○ Travel during the time of day that is best for the person. For example, if he or she becomes tired or more agitated in the late afternoon, avoid traveling at this time.

○ Allow plenty of time for rest and don’t over-schedule.

● Keep travel necessities close: If traveling by air, keep necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important documents in your carry-on baggage. For longer car trips, make sure water and snacks are available.

● Brief your host: If you are staying with family or friends, make sure everyone knows what to expect. If you will be staying in a hotel, consider informing the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.

● Be prepared: Environmental changes or new locations can cause anxiety and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. These events can also trigger wandering. Monitor your loved one closely for signs of stress or confusion. Keep them close to you in crowded, unfamiliar places. “The holidays should be a fun and relaxing time for friends and family, including people living with dementia,” said Linda Davidson, Executive Director for the Alzheimer’s Association–Georgia Chapter. “By keeping your loved one’s needs top of mind for all travel decisions can allow for less stress and confusion and provide a joyous time for all.”