Travel doesn’t need to stop when living with or caring for a person with dementia. However, added planning and flexibility is essential to find success. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Be specific about your needs as a care partner. Be open with family, friends and the travel industry on how they can assist you and your loved one with dementia.
Keep in mind that if you become anxious or upset as you travel, your loved one with dementia will as well. Be sure to pack a lot of patience and humor as you travel!
Most importantly, don’t forget to live in the moment and enjoy a trip or visit you have planned. While your loved one may forget, you will have lasting memories of a well-planned and executed trip. – Jan Dougherty, Founder/CEO of TravAlz
While traveling with someone who is with living with Alzheimer’s comes with its own set of challenges, it’s not impossible. With adequate preparation, you can ensure a safe and even enjoyable trip for yourself and your loved one. Here are some travel tips for seniors living with dementia to help you along in this journey.
Tips for Traveling with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
Pick your destination and route carefully
If this is a holiday trip, try to select a destination that is closer to your home. Short trips are much easier to manage than long flights with multiple layovers. If planning a road trip, find routes that have frequent restrooms.
Give priority to familiar locations and memories
People living with dementia will often experience severe stress when they are confronted with unfamiliar sights and experiences. To reduce this fear of the unknown, pick locations that the person has visited in the past, maybe a place with positive memories.
Bring your family and pets
Going as the sole companion of a person living with Alzheimer’s may be challenging. If possible, bring a few other family members along for the trip. If the person living with dementia has a pet dog that they are emotionally attached to, try to bring it along to keep them calm.
Avoid crowds, if possible
Apart from the obvious stress it can bring to someone living with Alzheimer’s, crowds may also prove to be unsafe in terms of infection risks. Seniors are often more vulnerable to catching infections due to lower immunity. Check travel advisories and current infection rates before planning any trips in potentially crowded destinations.
Carry appropriate identification
Have the person wear an ID bracelet, or preferably a sunflower lanyard, at all times. These green-colored lanyards are available at many airports in the US. These discreet identifiers can help your loved one receive extra attention and care from airport staff.
Individuals accompanying a person living with Alzheimer’s can also carry Companion Cards. These are usually available free of charge from Alzheimer’s Associations and nonprofits. They can help smooth things over in social situations immensely.
Plan in advance with airport authorities
The TSA Cares program is incredibly useful when planning any sort of air travel with a person living with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Contact the program at least 72 hours in advance to register for additional assistance during stressful events like security checks. You may also contact airport authorities for wheelchairs and other types of mobility assistance.
Explain the plan to your loved one
Try to avoid sudden, unexpected trips as much as possible. Tell your loved one about the travel plans at least several weeks in advance. Jot it down frequently in their daily calendar or planners to refresh their memory from time to time. You will probably have to repeat everything in detail several times. This technique can be very helpful, but in some individuals, telling them in advance can actually cause extra stress days leading up to the trip. Make sure to handle this situation according to your loved ones’ unique situation.
Include plenty of spare time in your plans
Whether it’s during the journey or at the destination, avoid rushing things as much as possible. Plan your journey in such a way that you arrive well in time for your flight/other deadlines. Avoid a tightly packed itinerary and include plenty of resting time for the person living with dementia.
Be flexible and keep your expectations low
A person living with dementia may struggle to enjoy the things they once cherished. Keep your expectations low when visiting old familiar locations, or doing their favorite pastimes. If they demand to go home, be patient. Sometimes, poor health may force you to cut down the trip abruptly – plan in advance for this eventuality.
Get Expert Care for Your Loved Ones with Home to Stay
Home to Stay is a highly experienced senior care solutions provider in New Jersey. If you need expert in-home caregivers for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s, you can rely on us for expert care backed by empathy and respect. Our services are available in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester, Salem, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. Give us a call at (856) 321-1500 now to learn more.