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

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 Answer

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