By Meghan Fitzpatrick

Spring has officially sprung! The trees are blooming. The pollen is floating and New England weather has begun to taunt us with previews of warm summer days to come.

Summer in New England brings so much to enjoy: we have beaches and lobster rolls and backyard barbecues aplenty. Besides, I have yet to hit an age where I don’t enjoy a bit of nostalgia thinking about the summer vacations of my youth.

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, though, summer can also bring a whole host of added stressors. Do we take mom down to The Cape with us? What do we do if we don’t? The days are getting longer and my husband doesn’t see why he needs to go to bed if it’s not dark out. My sister is always putting too many clothes on and it’s supposed to be 80 today. The list goes on.

In preparation for a fun and safe summer for all, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you and your loved one navigate the season ahead.

First and foremost, do not get attached to expectations. As you begin to plan family vacations, it’s only natural to want to include your loved one, but travel is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for people with dementia. Routine and familiar surroundings are very important to help a person with dementia navigate their day stress-free. Even a short road trip over the bridge to The Cape can cause your loved one stress and throw the whole vacation off. Longer trips can be even worse. Flying, changing time zones or ecosystems and just the general hustle and bustle of longer trips can cause a person to be so disoriented their symptoms worsen. As caregivers, we all want to get our loved one to their favorite beach house one more time or bring them to their favorite ice cream shop in Maine, but if we are unrealistic about where they are in their journey, we may cause more harm than good. I would recommend calling the Alzheimer’s Association support line at 800.272.3900 for advice on the best plan for YOUR loved one.

Plan as much as you can. Anyone who has been around someone with dementia for any length of time will tell you that planning almost never works the way you think it will, but the more you can plan in advance, the easier your summer vacation will be. I just talked about how your loved one may not be able to join you happily on your vacation anymore but that doesn’t mean YOU can’t get a break. Whether it’s a weekend away or a trip to Europe, you should book that trip. Support your loved one by planning as well as you can for your absence. If your loved one lives at home with you, now is the time to start calling home care agencies and day programs to compare price, service and availability so that your loved one remains safe and cared for while you’re away. If your loved one is in an assisted living community, your job is a little easier but it’s still important to let them know you will be gone and establish a backup point of contact in case your loved one needs anything while you are gone.

Finally, but most importantly, KEEP YOUR LOVED ONE COOL. This is a big one. People with dementia may not be able to recognize that they are hot, dehydrated or both. A brain with dementia doesn’t work the same as a brain without dementia, so the signals may get confused. This means that your loved one may be developing severe dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke without realizing it. Try to encourage your loved one to drink 8 oz. of fluid at least every other hour (I know this can be a tough one so I recommend getting some Liquid IV in a flavor they will like to make it easier) on warm days. Be sure that if your loved one is going outside, they are not alone, dressed appropriately and not out for too long. A person can develop heat exhaustion in as little as a few minutes so I would say if you are hot, so is your loved one.

Hopefully, these tips and tricks can help you have a happy, healthy and fun summer! If you have any questions or if you need any assistance at all, feel free to contact me: Meghan Fitzpatrick Home Care Liaison;; Mobile: 617-862-5413; Office: 781-661-6327; The