Travelling with a person with Alzheimer’s disease
***New from our blog: caregiver Susan Bithrey's shares her experiences travelling with her husband with dementia and offers some basic rules to help make your next trip incident-free.
We all enjoy a change of scenery now and then. In the early stages of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s disease may experience little difficulty and enjoy travelling as a break from routine. As the disease progresses, changes in the person’s abilities may make it harder to manage changes in surroundings and daily routines. Travelling with someone who has dementia requires thought and planning.
Here are some tips to make the trip easier:
- Include and prepare the person in your planning. Give her a copy of the trip plan for her reference.
- For someone with dementia, a new environment may be confusing. Aim for as few changes in routine as you reasonably can. He may also have some difficulty readjusting to being home afterwards.
- If you’re planning to visit friends and family, tell them about the changes since your last visit. Think ahead about activities that may need to be adjusted. For example, the person with Alzheimer’s may function better at certain times of the day, or may need some quiet time after a social activity, or one that’s physically taxing.
- Consider a holiday package, where everything is organized for you. Make sure that the travel agent is aware of any special needs the person might have.
- Try to find out as much as you can ahead of time about the place you’ll be visiting, so you can anticipate what you’ll need, or how much time to plan for certain activities.
- Wandering is a possible risk. Register the person with the Alzheimer Society’s MedicAlert® Safely Home®. Members receive an engraved identification, which allows police and emergency responders to quickly identify the person who has wandered and bring the family back together.
- Make yourself known to the local police.
- Take recent photographs with you and make note of what the person is wearing.
- Carry a description of the person, the names she responds to and details of her preferred places of interest. (This will help during a search if one is necessary.)
- Keep a copy of the name and number of the hotel in a familiar spot in the person’s purse or pocket, so he can ask for help if he gets lost.
- If the anticipation of the trip causes the person to become anxious, wait until just shortly before you leave to tell her.
- Try to get a direct flight.
- Consider alternative forms of travelling such as a cruise, which can have a relaxing atmosphere.
- If you’re travelling by car for a long distance, consider extending the time to get there and driving shorter distances each day.
Ask for help
- If possible, have an additional person travel with you to help.
- Inform the airline that you are travelling with a person with dementia. You may want to request early boarding, a wheelchair, or transportation upon arrival. You may need help getting on and off the plane, or stowing carry-on baggage.
- Consider requesting a wheelchair at the airport. Even if the person with Alzheimer’s doesn’t have trouble walking, it can help you get from place to place, and it also makes it easier to get help from airport staff and flight crew.
- Request seating near the washrooms.
- If you are staying at a hotel, let the staff know about the person’s needs and explain some of the possible difficulties or problems you think you might encounter. This might lessen the stress for both of you.