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Old 04-07-2013, 11:40 AM   #1
kollerbear's Avatar
Join Date: May 2011
Location: New York City
Posts: 237

WDW with dementia?

Hope you guys might be able to help with a question I'd think is fairly unusual...

My grandmother is living with us temporarily until she moves in with my parents towards the end of the summer. My parents were planning on a DVC trip this summer (home resort SSR), and were wondering if grandma would be up to join them and my sisters.

Grandma does have dementia, but she has enjoyed trips to the zoo, for example, using a wheelchair and taking it slowly for only a few hours at a time. She doesn't get agitated very easily (really only at bath time) and is never aggressive or combative the way I know a lot of people with dementia can be. She enjoys attention and spending time with her family and is easily delighted by little things. We recently had to spend a night in a hotel and she loved it, although she was confused towards the end of the day about where she was supposed to go to sleep. (she was sitting on the bed... )

So I'm kind of of two minds about the situation. I could see it being difficult for her with all of the newness, but I could also see her really enjoying a lot of it. At this point the memories would be for us, not for her, since she really just lives in the moment without much short term memory anymore. Nevertheless, the time watching her enjoy simple Disney things could be so precious.

Has anyone traveled with someone in this kind of condition? Are there agencies that anyone has used with health aides for seniors that could provide a helping hand on and off? Any feedback would be useful, I'm kind of perplexed about whether it would be really nice, a mix of good times and bad times, or just a bad idea.

Thank you!!
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:52 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 300

It!s impossible to predict, but I would guess there would be a mixture of good and bad times. We look my father-in-law on several non-Disney trips before he died, and new surroundings confused and upset him. At the same time, he enjoyed many things about traveling and doing new things. He tired easily, and since we didn't feel safe leaving him at the hotel alone, someone always stayed behind with him while he napped, watched TV or listened to soft music. We also found it dangerous to let him leave the room by himself since he would get confused and would panic. It sounds like you will have several people in your group who could take turns staying behind with him, and that will make it easier. When he felt like going out and doing things with us, he had fun and was very happy. So if your family is willing to change their expectations for this vacation, your grandmother probably will enjoy parts of the trip. Being in a DVC villa should make it easier since there will be more space and a kitchen to prepare snacks and meals when she doesn't feel like going out or simply doesn't have the energy.
However, in our experience, a person with dementia can get much worse very fast. My father-in-law became aggressive very fast and started cursing people and hitting people when he wasn't able to do what he wanted to do. This was completely out of character for him, and he always had been a gentle person who never cursed or showed any kind of aggression to others. Within only a few months, he changed from a kind, sweet man to an angry, aggressive person who did and said unbelievable things. We finally had to hospitalize him, and in less than 6 weeks, his condition deteriorated so much that he died when his brain shut down to the point it stopped telling his body to swallow, breathe, etc. My point in telling you this is to make you aware of how fast your grandmother's condition could change from now until summer. I admire your wish to share WDW with your grandmother, and If you decide to take her, I hope she enjoys at least part of the trip. At the same time, please be prepared for her confusion and frustration with new surroundings. Good luck on making the best decision. I know it's difficult when you can't predict how she will react.

Last edited by CoffeeCup; 04-07-2013 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 02:17 PM   #3
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Chicago
Posts: 669

I agree with the pp, that things can change very quickly when you're dealing with dementia. Also, with respect to WDW, the noise and crowds are going be hundreds of times worse than at any zoo or park. Also, the FL heat in the summer may cause discomfort and contribute to health and safety concerns.
Ultimately the decision is your family's and I wish you all the best for your grandma and your trip.
Good luck!
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