How can I help my husband while traveling without telling out tour group about his Alzheimer's?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Deel asked...

My husband who has early moderate Alz and I have been traveling. I make all the arrangements, the packing, etc, etc. because he just don't have now the ability to decide on many things including what to wear on particular trip. And this is okey by him since a year ago. One of my problems is during group meals usually buffet. He gets confused on what to eat, and yet when I offer to get a plate for him of his favorites he refuses, that he ends up eating pastry and coffee only for breakfast or whatever vegetable or one item he first see on the table. Since I try to encourage him and suggest items that are good, and not raise any issue that would make him say something like "leave me alone" or something else, I keep cool by letting him eat what he wants (like mixing meat chunks with soup supposedly eaten on a plate with rice or potatoes, etc. and other combinations of different food items). I thought I was pretty brave to travel with him - getting lost, anal with restrooms, bottles of water where we were detained by TSAs in foreign countries because he would stash a bottle of water deep into his hand carry, although we have talked often of the liquid issue),the constant waiting, and waiting for him or going with him to the toilets, etc. But we always have fun! How could I diplomatically/lovingly help him with the meal situation with out him getting upset and me telling some folks in our tour group he has AD? I try to avoid doing this, but ended up telling someone in the last tour we did in Asia. But we are still going to travel. this is one activity we both like and I like to take him to a few more foreign places before he could not do it anymore, I would appreciate any tip, suggestions. Thank you. Deel

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

I have a friend who, like you, cares for her husband with AD and, facing the same issues you mention, travels with him as much as possible...with one major exception. My friend wrote a note to fellow travelers explaining that hubby has AD and stated that "Bill loves to chat about the Boston Red Sox and was a former plumber who loves telling 'plumbing jokes'. Even though he may not remember your name or recall he met you several moments ago, he thoroughly enjoys being with people and benefits greatly from your interaction with him. If Bill looks lost, could you please guide him back to cabin 12 on the upper deck...I will be waiting. Thank you for helping us." Might I suggest you try a similar approach. My friend realized that fellow travelers knew something was not right with Bill but had no idea what to expect. She received many positive responses and tremendous support once she shared his diagnosis. Meanwhile, let him eat what he chooses - feed him the 'good stuff' when you get home! Take care of YOU!

Community Answers

Deel answered...

Thank you! I have a copy of your book, which is tremendously helpful. Last year, my husband was quite adamant about letting people know of his dementia. Understandable. But, I am a different sort, and since I am the one getting all the headaches, how I wished I shared his problem with the group when we toured Europe last year! I know what you mean about positive responses. My husband plays tennis once a week with a senior league and at some point after I've seen the wondering eyes and perhaps thoughts with some off/odd things happening on court during the game,I drafted a nice letter, passed it through my husband for approval and when he okayed it, I e-mailed it to the group. It was a big relief for me, and him. Great understanding responses, and a few were happy I shared his diagnosis with them. A man even shared his problem. They were mostly supportive. Yes, I let him eat what he wants now. Thank you!