The holidays are just around the corner. For many families that means packing everyone in the car or taking a flight to another part of the country. Traveling is never easy, but it can be especially hard when a member of your family is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
At Visiting Angels, our elderly care providers have helped many families affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s with their travel preparations. We hope the following guide, which includes tips from the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Services and the Alzheimer’s Association, will help take the stress out of traveling for you and your family.
- Make sure you have a comfortable change of clothes, plenty of water, as well as any necessary food and/or medications.
- Bring a complete list of contact numbers. These should include numbers for emergency contacts, your loved one’s doctor, the emergency services in the areas you are traveling through and/or to, and contact numbers for your hotel or accommodations.
- Consider giving your loved one some form of ID they can wear or carry on them. You might also consider enrolling in wearable locator programs such as the MedicAlert or Alzheimer's Association’s Safe Return program.
- Create an itinerary for your trip.
- Plan for delays and give yourself plenty of extra time. Call ahead to your destination to see if they can accommodate early arrivals. This will reduce the chance of stressful situations.
- Plan for familiar routes and destinations whenever possible.
- Plan to limit or entirely avoid stressful situations such as short connection times.
- Avoid expressions of irritation or anger as much as possible. Stress can be contagious, especially in confined environments like a car or airplane.
- Try to travel with more than one caregiver if possible so that it is easier to care for and keep an eye on your loved one.
- Avoid traveling with those who will irritate or provoke stress in your loved one.
- If your loved one becomes agitated while you are driving, pull over. It is unsafe and will be counterproductive to try to calm them while driving.
- If staying at a hotel, motel, or resort, inform the management and any staff you will regularly deal with of your loved one’s situation.
- If staying with family or friends, make sure they are aware in advance of your loved one’s needs. Not everyone knows the best way to handle those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, so it is wise to speak with people individually and cover your loved one’s specific needs and tendencies.
Remember, when traveling with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, it always best to be over prepared than under prepared. Plan thoroughly, be prepared for potential emergencies, and do everything you can to reduce or eliminate stress and discomfort. And if you have an elderly care provider whom you can rely on for advice or help with preparation, do not hesitate to ask for their assistance.