If a person has Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it doesn’t mean he or she can no longer participate in meaningful activities such as travel; but it does require planning to ensure safety and enjoyment for everyone.
DECIDING TO TRAVEL
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, Comfort Zone or Comfort Zone Check-In.
- 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.
- Inform the airline and airport medical service department ahead of time of your needs to make sure they can help you. Most airlines will work with you to accommodate special needs.
- If appropriate, tell airport employees, screeners and in-flight crew members that you are traveling with someone who has dementia.
- Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an airport employee is assigned to help you get from place to place.
- Allow for extra time.