Preparation Key To Traveling With One Having DementiaPosted on June 30, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care, Education
14 tips for traveling with a person with dementia
By: Lee Nyberg
I’ll never forget my last trip with my mother. My family and I met my parents in South Carolina. I knew my mother had dementia, but I was unprepared for the dramatic changes I witnessed. She could no longer play her favorite Scrabble, act appropriately in stores, or choose her own food from a restaurant’s menu. My dad, Mom’s primary caregiver, explained the stresses of travel had magnified Mom’s dementia beyond her typical experience.
While travel is enjoyable for most of us, people with cognitive impairment experience the wonder of new and different surroundings as frightening and disorienting. Likewise, the busy pace of an airport or eating unusual local food can lead an impaired person to become more confused, agitated, and even physically or verbally aggressive, depending on the extent of their dementia and the degree and constancy of the day’s stimulation.
If you’re contemplating travel with a person with dementia, consider the following, even if you’re thinking of returning to a place you’ve travelled to for decades, like the family’s Minnesota cabin.
1. Check with your loved one’s doctor to determine if s/he is well enough to travel.
2. Understand that typical, stress-related behaviors you’ve observed and learned to cope with will likely occur both more frequently and more extremely during travel.
3. Evaluate your own capacity to manage your care recipient’s behaviors. If you can stay calm and keep a sense of humor, the trip may be possible.
4. Inform hotels, airlines, tour operators, or the people you’re visiting, that you are traveling with someone with cognitive impairment. Specify special needs and safety concerns.
5. Have your loved one wear identifying jewelry s/he cannot remove or place identification labels in clothing and shoes.
6. Plan for every eventuality, from medical emergency to cancelled transportation to missed meals. Take a full set of medical, insurance, and identification documents for your loved one. Leave a set of travel details at home and at your destination. Take snacks.
7. Carry important medication instead of placing in checked bags.
8. Put a card in your wallet which explains you are the caregiver for a person with dementia, and list emergency contact numbers and names, not your own address.
9. If appropriate, plan for wheelchair access with all forms of transportation and accommodation.
10. Locate hospitals along your route.
11. Consider taking a professional caregiver with you to provide an extra pair of hands and a chance for some rest time of your own. You cannot rely on strangers to watch your loved one, since unfamiliar or untrained people will not know how to handle behaviors which might arise quickly.
12. Try to spend as little time as possible in extremely crowded, busy, and noisy places, like theme parks and airport gates.
13. Have contingency plans for leaving early, if necessary.
14. If you decide to travel without your loved one, enlist the help of familiar friends, family, or professional caregivers to care for you loved one in your absence.
Even though it’s the tourist season, careful planning is required if you are traveling with a person with dementia. Short trips are best, if you do go.