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Traveling with a Forgetful Family Member

The hotel staff was grateful she was safely back in her room with her family.

My husband, Jon, was late getting home from work at a local resort hotel a few weeks ago and was anxious to tell me why.  As the Manager on Duty for the late-night shift, he had been called just before the end of his shift to investigate a report of an intoxicated individual in a guest room corridor.  When he arrived on the scene, he found a disheveled and agitated older woman and several frightened bystanders. 

Being married to a senior care professional, he has learned quite a bit about common dementia behaviors over our dinner table conversations.  He was quickly able to assess the situation and determine that the woman was not intoxicated… she was disoriented and frightened.  Once she realized that he was there to help her, she calmed down and explained that she had woken up and left her room to get some ice.  But once in the hallway, she was lost. She didn’t remember her room number, and all of the doors looked the same.  She panicked because she didn’t know where she was, what room she should return to, or how to find the front desk. 

My husband gently accompanied her to the front desk where she gave the clerk her first and last name.  Unfortunately, her name wasn’t in the system because the room was registered in another person’s name.  Luckily, another desk clerk remembered her from check-in and was able to identify her room number.

Jon and a hotel security guard accompanied the now very embarrassed woman to her room.  They found the door of the room propped slightly open from when she had left the room to look for an ice machine.  And, they found her adult son sleeping soundly in one of the beds.  He was shocked to be awoken by hotel security returning his lost mother and explained that she had been asleep before he turned in for the night. 

The son was angry with his mother for leaving the hotel room but relieved that she was safe.  The mother was contrite but didn’t remember him telling her not to leave.  The hotel staff was just grateful that she was comfortably back in her room with her family. 

This situation led us to consider several things families can do to ensure the safety of their forgetful family members when they are guests in a hotel:

  1. Make sure that you add the name of all adult guests in your party to the hotel room registration.
  2. Take a familiar object with you that you can hang on the hall-side of your door handle or leave by the door that will help your loved on find their room in a hallway of doors that all look the same.
  3. Hang a small doorknob door alarm on the inside of your hotel room door in case your loved one decides to wander while everyone else in the room is sleeping.
  4. Encourage your forgetful family member to wear a medical ID bracelet with your emergency contact information in case they do get separated from you for some reason.

It is a real challenge for caregivers to keep their forgetful family members supervised and safe 24 hours a day.  I will always be grateful for the compassionate helpers out there like my husband, Jon. 

Darra Wray is a Care Consultant and Certified Senior Advisor with My Care Companions in Boise, Idaho, a company she founded to streamline and simplify the administrative side of care.  You can learn more about My Care Companions and the My Data Diary family information management software tool at

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