Whether taking a short trip to see friends and family or traveling a far distance for vacation, it's important to consider the difficulties and benefits of travel for a person with dementia. In the early stages of dementia, a person may still enjoy traveling. As the disease progresses, travel may become too overwhelming.
When you take into account the needs, abilities, safety and preferences of the person with dementia, what's the best mode of travel? Consider the following:
- Go with the option that provides the most comfort and the least anxiety.
- Stick with the familiar. Travel to known destinations that involve as few changes in daily routine as possible. Try to visit places that were familiar before the onset of dementia.
- Keep in mind that there may come a time when traveling is too disorienting or stressful for the person with dementia.
Tips for a safe trip
- Changes in environment can trigger wandering. Even for a person in the early stages, new environments may be more difficult to navigate. Keep the person safe by taking precautions, such as enrolling in MedicAlert® + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return®.
If you will be at a location for an extended period of time, consider contacting the local Alzheimer's Association for resources and support. Find a chapter anywhere in the United States.
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- Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, your travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks and activities.
- Pack necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important legal documents.
- Create an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to emergency contacts at home. Keep a copy of your itinerary with you at all times.
- If you will be staying in a hotel, inform the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
- Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia.
Documents to take with you when traveling
- Doctors' names and contact information
- A list of current medications and dosages
- Phone numbers and addresses of the local police and fire departments, hospitals and poison control
- A 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
- Insurance information (policy number, member name)
Traveling in airports requires plenty of focus and attention. At times, the level of activity can be distracting, overwhelming or difficult to understand for someone with dementia. If you are traveling by plane, keep the following in mind:
- Avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections. Ask about airport escort services that can help you get from place to place.
- Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an attendant can help you get from place to place. Most airlines ask for at least 48 hours notice.
- Contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at least 72 hours priorto travel for information about what to expect during the security screening. Whileat the airport, remind the person what is involved and consider telling the agent at the security checkpoint that the person has dementia.
- Do not hesitate to ask for assistance from airport employees and in-flight crew.
- If the person needs help using the restroom, look for companion care bathrooms so you can more easily assist and will not have to leave the person unattended.
- Stay with the person at all times