Should we tell my mother-in-law with Alzheimer's that we are taking her on a trip?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother-in-law has Alz/Dementia. My father-in-law is caregiver. We would like to drive 3.5 hours (car ride) away to a condo on water. She loved sitting and looking out the last time we went, however we are unable to get them back as she refuses to travel anywhere. My father-in-law loves the place, very relaxing. Would be great for him as a break. Do we say we are going, or just going for a ride and end up there? Every time she is asked to go somewhere she refuses. No option for him to go and her to stay home. Any suggestions. Thanks

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

You sound very perceptive when you say "every time she is asked to go somewhere she refuses". Often, when you tell an Alzheimer patient about a future event or ask if they would like to go somewhere, they usually answer that way....or they suffer such anxiety that they keep asking, "Where are we going? When are we going?" repeatedly. Either they fear leaving their comfort zone or are unable to make a decision on their own behalf. There is a general fear of the unknown and their defenses are to protect themselves at all costs.

Families report that when they take the initiative and overcome a parent's resistance by either saying "we are going for a ride" or to a place that the patient is more secure with (i.e. the doctor) and then proceed to a social event, that the results are usually successful. Of course, you might hear "I want to go home now" but if you are able to distract (with a favorite food perhaps or a fun game) and delay their leaving, at least you will know your dad got a well deserved respite.