Many people have already started to prepare for holiday travel this year. For the five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s and their families, however, long distance trip can be particularly stressful. While the symptoms of this progressive brain disease can sometimes make travel more complex, it doesn’t mean families can’t travel with a loved one with dementia and participate in holiday festivities.
The Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter has some easy tips to help ensure a safe and smooth trip when traveling with a person living with dementia.
• Stick with the familiar. Travel to known destinations. Try to visit places that are familiar before the onset of dementia. Go with the option that provides the most comfort and the least anxiety.
• Be prepared. Create an itinerary that includes details. Give copies to family members or friends. Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks and activities.
• Pick the right time. Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with Alzheimer’s.
• Avoid layovers. If unavoidable, ask about airport escort services. 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.
• Ask for help. For example, request airline personnel to help you navigate through the airport. 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.
• Ensure a Safe Return. Changes in environment can trigger wandering. Enroll in MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. Also, keep in mind that there may come a time when traveling is too disorienting or stressful for the person with dementia.
Visit alz.org/travel for additional ideas on how to prepare for the distinct challenges Alzheimer’s brings for travel or call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 whenever you have questions or need support.