Program offers tips for dementia caregivers planning trips, holidays

Some of the documents included in the Memory Minder Travel Kit. Copies will be available free at the Sept. 13 Dementia Caring & Coping program at the Roseville Library. The kit was developed by the Roseville Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Action Team and also will be available online and at the library. submitted photo

When caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, even normal family holidays or birthday gatherings can be difficult.

Fast-paced conversations, noise or unfamiliar faces and surroundings can create confusion and sometimes fear for a person with dementia.

How to hold successful family gatherings will be the topic of a forum from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. N. Speakers also will offer tips about how to reduce stress during local and extended trips that include someone with dementia.

The program is part of the Dementia Caring & Coping series sponsored by the Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team, the City of Roseville and the Ramsey County Library system. The program is free and open to the public.

"When I was trying to be a hostess, we learned that somebody needed to be Mom's designated companion for the afternoon," said Sheryl Fairbanks of Roseville, who spent more than a decade caring for her parents. She will be one of the presenters on Sept. 13.

"And when we took Mom somewhere, visiting one of her friends or even just to a restaurant, we learned to bring along a care travel bag with extra clothes, wipes and other essentials," she said. "We needed to be prepared for accidents, and we always knew that Mom might get tired and we might have to cut a trip short and head for home."

A primary lesson for dementia caregivers dealing with travel or family celebrations, Fairbanks said, "is you have to stay flexible. Be prepared to switch plans, prepare your guests for what Mom might need and decide that everybody is going to have a good time."

The goal for any family gathering is that the care recipient feels safe, happy, loved and welcomed, she said.  

Also speaking will be Norman Kunselman, program coordinator at the Roseville Area Senior Program. He will be talking about tips for traveling locally, including transportation options available to seniors in the Roseville area — a range of public and nonprofit bus and car services.

Since 2013, Roseville A/D has offered educational programs and other activities to help people with dementia and their friends and families have rich, full lives while coping with dementia.

Alzheimer's and similar conditions often cause problems with memory, judgement, decision-making and ultimately can cause death. While some treatments can ease symptoms, there is no known cure. The biggest risk factor is age. Roseville has one of the higher percentages in the state of people age 65 and older at 20.2 percent, compared with about 12.9 percent statewide. An estimated 750 people in Roseville have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. Most live at home and about 110 live alone. 

The next program in the Caring & Coping series will be on Thursday, Oct. 11, when Joe Gaugler, a nationally known University of Minnesota expert on dementia and caregiver issues, speaks about "After the Diagnosis."


—Warren Wolfe is retired from the Star Tribune, where he wrote about aging and health-care issues. He is active in Roseville A/D and will be a presenter at the Sept. 13 program

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