We can all use a vacation, but what about traveling when your loved one has dementia? It can certainly be difficult, and that’s why Insight Memory Care Center offers a Caregiver Cruise! Both the individual with a dementia diagnosis and their caregiver attend, making the program possibly the first of its kind in the country. In addition to the many benefits a cruise offers – the chance for a vacation, seeing new sights, a getaway – the caregiver cruise provides families with a chance to vacation in a safe and supportive environment.
“It is a ‘safe space’ in which we can be ourselves…in the company of people—participants and Insight staff—who just ‘get it’,” says Michael Bell, a previous cruise participant.
Insight’s first Caregiver Cruise was offered in 2015. We sailed aboard the Grandeur of the Seas down to the Bahamas, allowing 8 couples to enjoy Port Canaveral, Nassau, CocoCay, and Key West. This June we took another 8 couples on our second annual cruise to New England and Halifax! Families enjoyed sightseeing in Boston, Portland, St. John’s, and Halifax.
Beyond simply enjoying all the sights and the amenities of the cruise, participants have the opportunity for a vacation in a safe environment, in the company of others who “get it.” The success of the cruise depends on a caring and compassionate staff that takes into consideration the couples who are attending. Insight staff starts planning the cruise months in advance, taking care of all of the details, including the itinerary, the shore excursions, and the therapeutic activities that are provided on days at sea.
The staff gets to know everyone attending the cruise so that activities are all planned with their interests and abilities in mind. We are not only there to provide respite care for the caregivers, but to offer a familiar face throughout the vacation, along with emotional support or an impromptu care consultation if needed! We greet them in the Windjammer for breakfast, we meet them in the Palladium Theater for our shore excursions, facilitate dinner conversations, and meet in the evening for the headliner show. There is always a friendly face nearby!
For caregivers, the cruise offers an opportunity to create new friendships with others in a similar situation. Each understands what the other is going through, and this allows everyone to just be themselves in a supportive environment. It allows the cruise to truly be a vacation!
“‘What a wonderful opportunity for families!’ is what I keep hearing anytime I tell someone about the Caregiver Cruise program,” shares Christi Clark, Education and Outreach Coordinator at Insight. She will be presenting a how-to workshop on replicating the program for other adult day center leaders at the National Adult Day Services Association conference in September 2016.
Insight Memory Care Center strives to provide the highest quality of life for those with dementia and their caregivers. And what better way to promote quality of life than with a well-deserved vacation!
By: Joel Bednoski, Executive Director of Insight Memory Care Center, Fairfax, VA