Traveling with a loved one who has dementia can be challenging, but there may be a time when taking a trip away from home cannot be avoided. Whether you are headed to a family event that you simply cannot miss or you need a change of scenery, these tips can help you keep frustration to a minimum and enjoy your break.
Allow Extra Time – And Keep Travel Time To A Minimum
When you are traveling with someone who has dementia, keep in mind that they are probably going to need some extra time to feel comfortable in new surroundings. It is important to approach the entire trip with patience and give them time wherever you can in between any events you are attending at your destination.
It is best to limit your travel time to less than four hours. If you need to head further away, try to bring another caregiver along as well and prepare activities to keep your loved one busy in transit.
On a similar note, you will want to take a direct flight wherever possible to avoid late connections and unnecessary distress. You can also ask the airline about pre-boarding so that your loved one has more time to adjust to the plane and its surroundings before takeoff.
Bring Medications And Documents With You
When you travel, be sure to bring important documents with you, such as physician information, a list of medications and their dosage and schedule, a list of your loved one’s food allergies, emergency contact information and insurance information. It is also a good idea to compose a full travel itinerary and keep it handy. When flying, do not pack your loved one’s medications in checked baggage – be sure to carry it with you.
If your loved one is prone to wandering, have them wear an identification bracelet or put their name somewhere on their clothing along with your contact number and place a list of their medical conditions and information in their pocket or wallet.
If you are concerned about public interactions, you can carry a card with you that briefly details your loved one’s dementia and show it to your fellow travelers or airline staff to save frustration and potential embarrassment.
People with dementia need consistency, so be realistic with your travel plans. Travel is often a hectic and rushed event, so be sure that you plan some breaks to give your loved one the quiet time they need to recharge. For example, arrive early ahead of your flight and sit down together somewhere quiet for 20 minutes to wind down before boarding, or break up a long road trip by stopping at a quiet diner to eat. This will allow both of you to catch your breath.
Don’t be afraid to ask your airline or travel company about any special accommodations they can provide to caregivers who are traveling with a loved one who is memory impaired. Agents may be able to help you book seats with greater legroom or closer to a bathroom, or allow you to board early so you’re not getting on the plane in the middle of the usual commotion as everyone clamors to find their seats.
A person who is in the earlier stages of the illness will likely have an easier time with travel than those who have advanced dementia. If your loved one is at a stage where they show verbal or physical aggression, have a high risk of falling, or act delusional or disinhibited, it is best to avoid traveling with them wherever possible.
Try To Keep Surroundings Familiar And Maintain Routines
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia often struggle in new environments. While there is not much you can do to make your destination fully resemble home, it can help to bring familiar items that remind them of home along with you on your trip, such as a favorite blanket or pillow.
You also need to try to maintain as much of their regular routine as possible. Although this may be difficult while you’re traveling, at a very minimum, try to keep your mealtime and bedtime schedules similar tothose you follow at home. If you can schedule your drives or flights around these times, it may help keep agitation at bay.
Stay In A Hotel
If you are going to visit relatives, it is a good idea to stay in a hotel rather than with family members. Some family members who are unfamiliar with dementia may not know what to expect.
A hotel is better able to provide your loved one with a calm place where they can unwind when the trip becomes too hectic and overwhelming. It may also be easier for you to stick to the usual routine in a hotel; inform your hotel staff ahead of time if you have any special needs.
Reach Out To Harbor Light Hospice
Harbor Light Hospice can improve dementia patients’ quality of life and make things easier for their caregivers and loved ones. Reach out to learn more about our supportive services.