As the summer winds down, don’t forgo traveling another year because your loved one has dementia. If your parent or loved one has dementia, this doesn’t mean that he or she can no longer travel with the rest of the family.
However, it does mean that your travels will require a little extra thought and planning. At Martinson & Beason, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of tips for traveling with someone with dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association and Rittenhouse Senior Living.
Deciding to Travel
When deciding whether or not to embark on a short trip or long vacation, consider the needs of your loved one. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may still enjoy travel. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, travel may prove to be too confusing and overwhelming for the person.
If you’ve weighed the costs and benefits of travel and determined that you are going to travel, it’s now time to start planning.
Packing and Pre-Departure
Consider enrolling your loved one in a Safe Return Program or a similar program before departing.
When packing, make sure to include identification, emergency contact information, a list of doctors’ names, a list of current medications, a list of allergies, insurance information, and a copy of any important legal documents, such as a living will and power of attorney. It is a good idea to bring an extra supply of medication, in the event that you are delayed during your trip. You may also want to bring along snacks, water, a pillow, and music. (If you are flying, important items like medication should be packed in a carry-on bag, since checked bags can be lost.)
Pack brightly colored clothing for your loved one, which can help you spot him or her if you become separated. It’s also important to take a picture of your loved one on your cell phone so that you have a recent picture of him or her in case you become separated.
Air Travel & Car Travel
When planning, try to select options that will maintain your loved one’s comfort and security. If your loved one has never flown on a plane before, for example, now may not be the time to introduce him or her to flying.
If you are flying, make sure to inform, as necessary, airport employees that you are traveling with someone with dementia. Opt for direct flights when possible, which avoid the hassle and stress of layovers. Also, it can be helpful to request airport escort services.
If you are driving, try to limit the length of the car ride. Bring along your loved one’s favorite hobbies and familiar items to reduce the chance that he or she will become agitated. If he or she does become agitated, do not try to calm him or her while driving: pull over instead. Never leave your loved one in the car alone.
Set your travel times to adhere as closely as possible to your loved one’s schedule. (Does he or she do well in the morning? In the evening?) Also, make sure to allow extra time for the unknown. Trying to stick to a hectic, strict schedule may cause your loved one anxiety and confusion.
If you are staying in a hotel, notify hotel staff that you are traveling with someone with dementia. Ensure that your hotel room door is secure to prevent your loved one from wandering. You may also want to bring a portable alarm or childproof doorknob cover.
When Your Loved One Shouldn’t Travel
If you’ve decided that travel would cause your loved one too much stress and confusion, consider a respite stay. Respite care can allow you to travel with the peace of mind knowing that your loved one is in a safe, supervised setting.