Traveling with Dementia

traveling

The summer season is almost upon us, and for many, this is the time of year to let our hair down and take that vacay! For those that are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, however, the challenges associated with traveling can be daunting. Below are some tips and strategies for making your next excursion as stress and worry-free as possible.

Tips for a calm traveling experience:

  • Plan ahead
  • Learn to recognize the warning signs of anxiety and agitation and have a plan to address them. Discuss this plan with the person with dementia.
  • Try not to overload the person with a lot of directions or too much information.

General travel considerations:

  • Environmental changes can trigger wandering or confusion. Enroll in MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. Call 888.572.8566 or visit alz.org/safety to enroll. Those already enrolled should notify MedicAlert + Safe Return of travel plans.
  • It may be helpful to stick with the familiar. Travel to known destinations that involve as few changes in daily routine as possible.
  • Evaluate options for the best mode of travel. Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety.
  • When selecting destinations, consider those that have easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies.
  • Consider the needs and desires of the person with dementia as you plan your trip; elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours may cause anxiety and confusion.
  • If you will be staying in a hotel, consider informing the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
  • Have a backup plan in case your trip needs to change unexpectedly.
  • Travel during the time of day that is best for the person. For example, if he or she is more agitated in the late afternoon, try to avoid traveling at this time.

What to keep in mind for visits to family and friends:

Be sure to prepare friends or family members for the visit by explaining dementia and the changes it may have caused. Go over any special needs and explain that the visit could be short or that you may need to change activities on short notice. Some additional considerations:

  • It may be helpful to stay as close to your normal routine as possible. For example, bathing and eating times should be on a similar schedule to that followed at home. Eating in familiar settings, such as at a dining room table, may be less confusing than eating in a crowded restaurant.
  • Be realistic about abilities and limitations. Allow for extra time when scheduling activities.

Suggestions for air travel:

Moving through an airport requires focus and attention, as the level of activity can be distracting, overwhelming and difficult to understand. Please consider the following when traveling by air:

  • Avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections.
  • Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an airport employee is assigned to help you get from place to place. Most airlines ask for at least 48 hours of notice.
  • Contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at least 72 hours prior to travel for information about what to expect during the security screening. While at the airport, remind the person what he or she can expect and inform the TSA agent at the security checkpoint that the person has dementia.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for assistance from airport employees and in-flight crew members.
  • If the person needs help using the restroom, look for companion care bathrooms so you can more easily assist.
  • Stay with the person at all times.

 

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