Traveling with a Loved One with DementiaJuly 19, 2023
Adjusting to life with dementia brings so many changes and challenges for families, including deciding if someone with dementia can travel safely with family members. Traveling is one of those experiences families and couples look forward to, especially the excitement of going to new places and experiencing new things. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can make traveling more complicated, but it’s possible to have a fun and rewarding experience traveling with someone with dementia.
Dementia is a progressive condition that impairs a person’s ability to remember things, process information and communicate clearly, all of which can make traveling more difficult. However, living with dementia shouldn’t limit a person from having meaningful travel experiences and visiting the people they love.
How to Decide if Traveling with Dementia Is Safe
The decision to travel often depends on your loved one’s stage of dementia and your level of comfort in helping them manage symptoms. In early-stage dementia, a person may enjoy traveling and do very well exploring new places with a travel companion they trust. In middle-stage dementia, travel is possible but symptoms and behaviors may be difficult to manage in an unfamiliar environment. Travel is usually not recommended for people with late-stage dementia because they usually have significant mental and physical impairments that pose a safety risk.
Here are some things to consider before making travel plans with your loved one:
Observe how your loved one handles loud and crowded places or confusing situations. When they’re out in public at restaurants, grocery stores or shopping malls, do they enjoy the experience or become easily upset, anxious or scared?
Take a practice trip close to home. Test your loved one’s reaction to travel by driving around to nearby attractions and staying at a local hotel. This can help you decide if it’s wise to venture to destinations farther away from home.
Choose a familiar destination. Traveling to a known destination for your trip may help your loved one feel at ease. It also gives you an advantage if you already know the transportation system and where to find emergency health services, if needed.
Be realistic. If your loved one’s abilities have changed, it can be hard to accept that your next trip will be different from trips you’ve taken in the past. Setting realistic expectations for the trip can help you make the most of the experience.
Tips for Traveling with Someone with Dementia
Being well prepared is the key to traveling safely with someone with dementia. Although routines may be disrupted by travel, there’s value in helping your loved one step away from their usual environment to be part of family experiences. Traveling together can create happy moments for everyone involved, and it’s a great way to spend quality time together.
If you’re visiting family or friends, prepare them for what to expect regarding your loved one’s current dementia symptoms and behaviors. Review any special needs your loved one has to help prepare for meal times and sleeping arrangements. Having a support system while you’re traveling and at your destination can make a big difference for your loved one as well as alleviate some of the stress on you as a caregiver.
Consider the following tips to help you plan a safe and special trip with someone who has dementia:
- Pack an emergency bag. Keep a carry-on bag with you at all times that includes your loved one’s medications, a list of doctors’ names and emergency contacts, medical insurance cards and up-to-date medical information.
- Get a medical ID bracelet. Have your loved one wear a medical identification bracelet with your contact information. This is especially important for someone with dementia who may be prone to wandering.
- Allow extra time. Whether you’re flying or driving, allow extra time for packing the car, checking bags at the airport, security, traffic/parking delays, bathroom breaks and other logistical concerns.
- Simplify the trip itinerary. Avoid overscheduling outings and activities on the trip and make sure there’s plenty of down time. This can help your loved one get settled into a new place and find time to relax.
- Maintain routines whenever possible. Try to keep mealtimes and bedtimes as close to the normal routine as possible, and make adjustments as needed when traveling in a different time zone.
- Travel during the best time of day. If your loved one usually becomes agitated during the late afternoon or after a long day, it’s best to avoid activities that could wear them out late in the day.
- Stay calm. If challenges arise, do your best to be a calming presence in stressful situations.
- Discuss travel plans with your loved one’s doctor. They can provide further guidance and help you plan for medication management and additional advice for traveling with dementia.
Have a Backup Plan
Know your loved one’s limits and your own limits when it comes to travel. If travel feels overwhelming, it’s OK to plan a trip closer to home or invite family and friends to visit your loved one where they are. You could also use technology to help them connect with friends and family many miles away. For example, if your loved one is unable to travel for a family wedding or family reunion, you could arrange video chats with relatives or watch a recording of the wedding ceremony together.
We’re Here to Support You and Your Loved One
Whether you decide to travel together or stay close to home, you can trust the caring professionals at Oaks Senior Living to provide personalized dementia care in a safe and supportive environment. Contact us today to learn more about our memory care communities in South Carolina and Georgia.