Summer has arrived and many of us are ready to get out and travel again. Traveling with a parent or loved one who has Alzheimer’s or a dementia-related illness can be challenging at best. Depending on the stage of dementia it is sometimes advisable to forgo travel altogether. However, people in earlier stages may still be able to enjoy travel with accommodations.
Regardless of whether you are traveling by air, car, or another mode of transport, it could quickly become overwhelming for your loved one and may spiral into an overwhelming situation for all involved. However, a well-planned trip can offer a positive impact on the person.
Research your travel destination ahead of time. Avoid locations like fairs and theme parks with large crowds, disruptive or loud noises, and environments where you could become separated from your loved one. Plan ahead and consider a destination that helps keep the loved one close to their familiar routine. The fewer changes to their daily routine the better.
For air travel – book with a travel agency so you can give them specific details about your needs such as wheelchair assistance, and a motorized cart. Remain with your travel companion at all times and be sure to ask for help from airport staff and the inflight crew.
For car travel – plan your route ahead of time. If it is a long trip, plan where you will make rest stops or a break for lunch. Pack water, snacks, and or lunch depending on the distance you will be traveling and where you’ll be able to stop. Bring layers. Air conditioning may be right for the driver but your loved one may feel cold.
Even if your loved one is functioning well at home, keep in mind that they are used to familiar surroundings but may become disorientated in a new environment. Changes to the environment can cause confusion, frustration, and stress. Understanding this will help give you the patience needed to adjust them slowly to the new environment and make your trip more enjoyable.
Go at Their Pace
Plan to keep your itinerary light and easy. Don’t overload your schedule. This will cause fatigue that may lead to more confusion and frustration. Be able to recognize signs of distress, anxiety, and agitation and have strategies prepared to reduce them
Make sure you have an updated photo of your loved one and consider creating an ID bracelet or make sure their name and your contact details are attached to their clothing or in a pocket in case you become separated. Don’t assume your loved one will remember how to reach you. If you know they may become easily upset or anxious, or know they tend to get angry, we’d suggest that that information is also with them so that
Be sure to pack medication and plan to be in a convenient location to give them at regularly scheduled times.
Don’t plan to leave a loved one with dementia on their own, even in a hotel room. Your absence and the new environment may cause fear and confusion and may lead them to venture outside to search for help.
Before heading out for the day be sure you pack a special travel bag that you can easily transport containing medications, a change of clothing, water, sunscreen, a hat, and incontinence supplies if needed. If you are going away for more than a day we’d suggest bringing the following documents:
– Doctor’s names and their contact information
– Current medications and dosages
– Local contact details for police, fire, hospitals, and poison control.
– List of food or drug allergies
– Copies of legal papers (living will, advanced directives, power of attorney, etc.)
– Names and contact information of friends and family members to call in case of an emergency
Summer travel can put an extra strain on everyone due to the heat and sun. Keep in mind these helpful summer safety tips from the Alzheimer’s Association in Illinois. They offer not just safety tips but also suggest safe summer activities you can do with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
When Not to Travel
If you are not sure if you should travel with your loved one – try a simple outing such as a picnic outside or a walk through the neighborhood. It is not advisable if someone exhibits the following behaviors:
– They have ever wandered.
– They have hallucinations or aggressive behavior.
– They become more fearful or agitated in unfamiliar environments.
– They cannot manage their incontinence.
– They’re prone to falling.
Traveling with a loved one can be very rewarding and despite some of the difficulties getting to your destination, you may find it to bring unexpected joys. We found this Conde Nast Traveler article inspiring and may just show another side of your loved one despite the disease.At Maplewood Senior Living our knowledgeable staff of professionals understands dementia-related illnesses and is here for you and your loved ones throughout the journey. Please contact one of our communities for more information.
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