Traveling can be the perfect way to get out of the house, create memories, and try something new. However, travel can feel exceptionally difficult if your plans include bringing your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, or another form of dementia. Whether you’re vacationing together, visiting a special place for the holidays, or just taking a daytrip for no reason at all, you can make traveling with an elderly dementia person easier with a few of our tips.
Plan Ahead for Success
Your travels will be more successful if you take the time to plan before you even pack your suitcase. And although you can’t necessarily plan for everything that could come up, you can decrease the chance of surprises by taking these actions:
- Call your loved one’s doctor and inform them of your travel plans.
- Prepare medications, packing a few extra days’ worth just in case of delays.
- Find the phone number of a pharmacy near your destination and keep it on hand, just in case.
- Find the address and phone number of the hospital closest to your destination.
- Make copies of your loved one’s insurance card and photo ID to keep with you.
- Order a medical identification bracelet for your loved one that includes their name and your cell phone number.
- Write down your plans, including your hotel and flight information, and share them with a few loved ones back home.
Communicate with Hospitality Professionals
Many professionals in the hospitality and travel industries have experience working with special populations, including those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Give appropriate people the information that will support your loved one’s safety and comfort by considering the following actions:
- If you are flying, talk to the airline ahead of time to see if there are special accommodations they could provide. For example, a quicker trip through security, or a quiet lounge in which to wait for your flight (as opposed to a busy and crowded terminal).
- Secure a wheelchair-accessible room in your hotel if your loved one has any mobility difficulties, or needs assistive devices (like a walker or cane).
- Inform the hotel staff about your loved one’s name, and encourage them to call them by their preferred name. This can add to a feeling of comfort and calm for your loved one.
- Tell hotel or restaurant staff about any dietary restrictions or preferences ahead of time, if possible.
Bring Comfort When Traveling with an Elderly Person Who has Dementia
Finally, a bit of preparation can go a long way toward keeping your loved one comfortable during your travel experiences. For example, you might:
- Decrease layovers or any additional wait times in airports, train stations, restaurants, or more.
- Bring along a piece of home, like a favorite photo book or blanket.
- Load up your tablet with favorite videos and relaxing music.
- Limit time spent out and about. Be sure to incorporate plenty of time for rest and decompression back in your comfortable hotel room.
- Be flexible with your plans. If your loved one seems anxious, frustrated, or exhausted, be prepared to switch up or delay your plans in order to give them the quieter space they need to feel their best.
- Be kind to yourself as well. If possible, travel with a partner so that you can take a break when you need to.
Sometimes, traveling with someone who is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is not always safe, or warranted. However, you may not be sure what your options are if you are leaving for an extended period of time. Consider respite care services at a local senior living community that has experience with dementia care. These communities offer specially designed environments that will keep your loved one safe and comfortable while you are enjoying your time away.