Is it alright for someone with Alzheimer's to travel two hours to a wedding?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother, 78, has dementia. There is a family wedding (her grandson's) coming up in July that is being held two hours away from the facility mom is living in. My sister (the groom's mom) is wondering if it is okay to have mom attend the wedding ceremony even though that is a four hour drive plus the time at the wedding (no reception, just to go to the church service and photos). What is your opinion?

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Travel in general is stressful for anyone. Traveling with someone with Alzheimer's may result in confusion. The ever-changing environment for someone traveling with impaired perception, judgment, memory, and even physical limitations caused by dementia may prove challenging.

On the other hand, you're talking about six hours"”two to the wedding, two at the wedding including time with the photographer, and two back. Depending on her level of function, you may be able to accomplish this if you follow the tips offered in the linked articles at the end of this answer. Until then, here are some things for you and your sister to consider.

Five major questions to ask yourself before you decide to take Mom to the wedding:

1. What is Mom's current condition? Is she able to handle the stress of travel?

The facility's nurse and caregivers can help you to better answer this question.

2. Can Mom be motivated to attend because she's the matriarch and needed or close to her grandson? _Does Mom have a special bond with this grandson? Sometimes this is motivation enough to muster the strength and mental ability to attend.

Is Mom the matriarch and realizes at some level that her family needs her?

3. How does Mom behave in social settings? At church? At a photo shoot?

4. What if Mom acts out?

Am I willing to accept this risk? How will I handle it? How will a potential outburst affect our family on this day?

5. On the day of the wedding when I go to pick up Mom, what if she decides not to go?

If you still decide to travel with her, then do the following:

*Talk with her now.

Drop hints now and then to assess her response over the next few days.

*Ask the facility's staff to help you.

*Share a picture of your nephew so she knows the person who is getting married.

Pictures of other family members may help her to recognize "familiar" faces while she's at the wedding.

Asking these five major questions then following the three tips plus reading the additional tips on the following links will improve your success once you (and she) decide she'll attend.

The drive home may prove even more stressful or she may be so exhausted from the new experience that she'll sleep all the way home.

The wedding is only a few weeks away. Be sure to write and let us know what you decided and how it all went.

For additional information:

5 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful for Someone With Early Memory Loss

Highlights: Start early and allow extra time. Stick close to your loved one.

When among groups such as parties

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

My stepmother is 88, almost 89. She has moderate to severe dementia. She, my husband and I traveled by plane to Denver in December to her granddaughter's wedding. There were several activities she participated in and actually had the opportunity to speak. She enjoyed it very much and did very well, although I was very nervous when she got up to speak not knowing what she might say. But she did well. Sadly she doesn't remember it at all. We just had to make sure she got to rest and had places to sit and put her feet up (for swelling). My personal opinion is that they need to reconnect with family and feel a part of events as much as possible when physically possible. We took pictures of course and I made her a photo album so she could look at it. It was very special for her and for her granddaughter for her to be there. So far in the last couple of years, she has made it to family weddings and to see new babies out of town. The furtherest we have driven was a two-hour drive each way for lunch and to visit with a grandson, his wife and their new baby (her great grandson). She really enjoys it at the time so it seems worth the hassle and time.

Patv answered...

I too faced similar events when I first started overseeing my Mom's care. One of my biggest considerations was evaluating my ability to be "on duty" with her at the event. My children are of the age they manage on their own, so that helped. But when you consider taking your mother anywhere, remember your own needs. If you are helping with the party, sick or not 100% or riding with someone else, you might want to reconsider taking your mother. Most of these trips will be for your benefit - you and the family will remember the moments - as your mother will not be able to remember. As your mother's dementia progresses, many of your times with her will be for your own benefit. If you are lucky enough to have a helpful family, enlist their attention as well.

Marcia s. answered...

My sister and I made arrangements for her to bring our mom to my son's wedding, this month. Mom did great! When the music started in church, she opened her eyes and with a smile on her face, said "Oh". She was alert and smiled during the ceremony and family pictures, moreso than she has been for over a year. She even chatted softly during the wedding, in her own special language. The Pastor said later, "A little rebutal is never a bad thing." :) My oldest sister feels we were cruel and selfish to include Mom. She and one of my brothers feel that taking Mom out of the facility in which she lives is bad for her. They are both mistaken. MOVING someone in Mom's condition is difficult. INVOLVING someone in Mom's condition is good. As long as the individual with Alzheimer's is with someone they trust, that person knows how to and is able to care fore them, and the outing is not so far as to cause extreme fatigue, it is agood idea to bring them with you.