by Jillian Pinks, VirtuALZ Registered Nurse
Do you enjoy traveling? Do you care for a loved one with dementia who loves traveling? Are you afraid to travel with them? Do you want to attend family reunions, weddings, medical appointments, or birthday celebrations? Traveling is still possible with some preparation and realistic expectations! Just because life changes doesn’t mean life stops!
Here are few tips to navigate this new territory:
Plan ahead and take the most direct route: When flying, if possible, take the most direct route, with no layovers or connecting flights. Too many directions and too much information can overwhelm someone with dementia. Work with a travel agency or the airline directly, as they can provide additional assistance and reserve needed items for your loved one in advance.
Consider your loved one’s daily routine when making travel plans: Does your loved one get agitated or tired in the afternoon? Do they have a morning routine that brings them security? If possible, try not to interrupt that routine. Learn the warning signs of anxiety and agitation, and find ways to reduce those before the trip.
Limit travel time to 4 hours or less if possible: If you need to travel for more extended periods, consider having more than one caregiver. Traveling with a loved one with dementia can be stressful, so having support can be beneficial. If family or friends are unavailable, there are medical transport services and caregivers for hire who can help you if needed.
Get your loved one an ID bracelet: It is best not to get separated from your loved one while traveling but knowing they have an ID bracelet with your information will offer peace of mind.
Have an emergency bag ready: Having one location for your important documents, insurance information, legal papers, contact information, medications (lists), list of allergies, doctors’ names/contact information, and some extra clothing is extremely helpful. This bag can also be useful during an emergency.
Don’t be in a hurry: It is better to sit at an airport waiting for a plane than to be in a hurry and rushing, which can make your loved one anxious. Allow plenty of time for traffic, baggage check, and processing through security. Have plenty of time for rest.
Set Realistic expectations: Be realistic in your travel plans, and know your loved one’s limits as well as your own. If traveling seems overwhelming or becomes unsafe for you and your loved one, don’t hesitate to say no. Plan simple trips closer to home or invite friends and family to visit you at your house for a short stay.
Contact the TSA: Understanding the security expectations for your loved one with dementia before arriving at the airport will prepare you both. The airport and TSA may have special accommodations that will help your loved one if they know your situation in advance.
Most importantly, be patient and prepared! Enjoy your travels!
Note: The VirtuALZ blog (FYI) is strictly a news and information website about Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias and life over 60. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The VirtuALZ Blog (FYI) is intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.