Traveling can be difficult when you are actively taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses. This can happen due to the worries that accompany traveling, as well as possibly disrupting the daily routine or agitating them. It may also to enjoy your vacation or travels when you have to worry about the well-being of your loved one constantly. It can be difficult, but with careful and thoughtful planning it can become more comfortable to take a family member with dementia along for as many trips as possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind when attempting to travel with someone suffering from memory care.
Choose the Destination Carefully
One of the most challenging parts of traveling with seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s is the restrictions that accompany it. When an adult with Alzheimer’s disease is taken out of their typical environment or daily activities, they may become agitated or distressed. You should try to choose a destination that does not require a lot of walking or hiking or is crowded and busy. It might help your senior to revisit a location from a fondly remembered family vacation that your loved one would enjoy.
Think About Travel Times and Methods
When arranging for the flight or other forms of travel, consider the needs of your loved one with memory problems. As you plan this getaway, keep in mind that your senior likely have a good time of day and bad time of day. Try to work your travel times around these and to arrive at a time when your senior will be able to get some sleep. Also keep in mind that your senior may require assisted seating or special modifications when traveling, such as wheelchair access.
Airline travel might be the most difficult because airports are often busy, noisy, high-stress environments subject to delays. Anyone who has Alzheimer’s will likely experience anxiety and agitation when traveling by plane. Traveling by car allows you to control the pace of the trip, check in with your senior, and take breaks when your senior is getting restless.
Pack with Care
No one anticipates that a vacation could turn sour, but it never hurts to pack for an emergency just in case. You can prepare for emergencies by making sure you have a copy of your loved one’s medical information, including their medication list, contact information, and legal documents such as power of attorney or living will. Make sure that you pack comfortable travel items for your senior such as a sweater in case they get cold, a pillow, blanket, and their favorite snacks. You can also pack your loved one’s favorite games and activities so that they will have something to do. This could be a box of photos, a video game, playing cards, Sudoku, a word puzzle, a knitting project, a Rubik's cube, etch-a-sketch, or knitting project. You can even set them up on an mp3 device so they can listen to music during the trip through headphones.
Ask Travel Staff for Assistance
Airports and airlines offer assistance and programs to travelers who request it. The Department of Transportation has multiple resources that list the available amenities and services that can help make your time traveling easier. No matter which airline you are using, you can call ahead and ask to learn more about your trip ahead of time. You can make arrangements and learn more about boarding protocols. If you are staying at a hotel, you can also call ahead of time and make sure they have the resources necessary to accommodate your loved one. For example, making sure they have wheelchair ramps or possibly caregivers that can watch your loved one while you are out of the room. Some locations may even be able to schedule activities and outings for your loved one.
Invest in GPS Tracking Hardware
GPS tracking may seem excessive, but this technology can be a discreet and effective option for making sure your loved one remains in a safe location during the duration of your vacation. GPS tracking devices can be embedded in watches, phones, and even on clothes. With wireless technology, you’ll be able to monitor the whereabouts of your senior in real time remotely. When you are traveling with someone who has memory loss, this can be a worthwhile safety investment for their well-being and your peace of mind.
What are the Limits and Restrictions of Traveling with Alzheimer’s?
As a general rule of thumb, the more advanced or severe the disease is, the less travel is possible. For that reason, you should evaluate your senior to see if they’re fit to travel and ask if they understand and are up to the challenges of whatever your travel plans are. People with behavioral problems related to dementia may pose a danger to themselves and others if they are transferred out of a familiar environment and placed into a new one. Anyone who has trouble completing daily activities on their own should not be asked to travel any long distance or undergo an arduous journey. Anyone who exhibits the following signs should avoid any overnight travel:
- Display physical or verbal aggression
- Have misperceptions, paranoid thoughts, hallucinations, or delusions
- Become confused or stressed in social situations
- Wake up at night confused
- Have difficulty holding their bowels or bladder (incontinence) or require special assistance to use the bathroom
- Have episodes where they mistake identities or cannot recognize their caregiver
- Have fallen or could seriously injure themselves from falling again
- Have outbursts where they yell, scream, or cry
- Resist and argue with their caregiver
- Are prone to wandering or getting lost
- Are easily agitated or frightened
- Have difficulty communicating with others
- Have unstable medical conditions
If you’re looking for more senior living blogs and resources, make sure to read our informative blogs every week. They will provide answers to many senior living topics. If your thinking it may be time for your loved one to move into one of the best active retirement communities, Landmark Senior Living is the place for you. People. Passion. Purpose. That’s our mantra, and we live by it every day.