A loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia does not mean they can no longer participate or even enjoy traveling. In fact, in the early stages of dementia, the person with dementia may still even want to travel (especially if it’s a favorite activity, or they want to visit familiar places or people before the progression of disease).
Still, traveling does require some extra planning to ensure everyone is safe and equipped to handle a trip. For instance, you might consider traveling only to a known location that involves little changes to the person’s normal routine (like a short trip to see friends or family), or taking a “staycation” instead.
If you’re considering taking a weekend getaway, or even longer vacation, plan ahead with these tips:
1. Pack an emergency bag.
This bag should include medications and current medical information like dosages, insurance information, a list of emergency contacts, a list of allergies, photocopies of important legal documents, and your travel itinerary. If you’re traveling by air, make this bag your carry-on and also include an extra set of clothing, snacks, and activities.
2. Keep a list of important contact information.
Have your doctors’ names and contact information, as well as the names and contact information of friends and family members to call in case of an emergency.
3. Plan the details of your trip.
Create a schedule with details like where you’re staying, travel times, and what activities or tours you plan to do. Give copies to emergency contacts at home, and keep a copy of the itinerary with you too.
4. Call your hotel ahead of time.
Contacting the staff before you arrive and sharing any specific needs ensures they can be better prepared to help you.
5. Avoid tight connections.
Air travel can be confusing for someone with dementia. You’re going to want as little stress as possible! Leaving time to make your flight or connection is one simple way to reduce anxiety. Additionally, you might consider requesting a wheelchair (even if mobility is not an issue) so that an attendant can help you navigate the airport.
6. Look for a companion restroom.
Airports are crowded and distracting. A companion restroom ensures you do not have to leave the person unattended, and can make it easier to assist if they need help using the restroom.
7. Do not hesitate to ask for help.
Anytime, anyplace! You might consider calling ahead and speaking with a TSA agent or other airport employee or hotel employee, as well as talking through your concerns with friends or family.
Overall, when it comes to traveling with someone with dementia, the best rule of thumb is to go with the option that will cause the least amount of stress or anxiety (for you and them).
Have you taken a trip with someone with dementia? Share your advice for safe travel in the comments.