What You Should Know About Dementia and Travel

seniorsPeople commonly ask us if it is safe for their loved one to travel if they are suffering from a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Our answer is yes. Your loved one can travel, but keep in mind that proper planning and precautionary measures must be taken every step of the way. It is important to weigh the factors of your loved one’s illness and consider the pros and cons when deciding if travel is right for them.

Other commonly asked questions include:

What should I expect if traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia? How do I plan the trip effectively?

Travel requires complex problem solving skills and reasoning ability. Travel can also be just plain exhausting and stressful, even for those of us who are perfectly healthy and of sound mind and body. This doesn’t mean that it is out of the question for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia to successfully travel, it just means that more consideration must take place beforehand. Probably the most important step you can take is to stick to basic routines as much as possible. As so many new and unexpected things occur during travel a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia will need to hold onto as much of their routine as possible, because it will make them feel more safe in unfamiliar and confusing surroundings. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients will also become more sensitive to things like hunger or fatigue, so it is good to be properly prepared with such things as snacks and pillows for example. The safest choice you can make, regarding your loved one and travel, is making sure they have a travel companion. This depends on the extent of their disability. Some people with early stage dementia can travel alone with excellent planning, but certainly we always recommend your loved one does not travel alone.

What precautions should I take when planning a trip for my elderly father with Alzheimer’s disease?

It is best to travel directly to your destination, try to plan so that layovers and long stops are prevented. Consider having a professional caregiver travel with him even if a family member or yourself will be traveling as well. This helps alleviate some of the pressure by helping with physical needs such as toileting. Pack more than just the basic necessary items such as comfort aids, like neck pillows and activities they enjoy (cards, music, games etc.)

Know where to go for help if any unexpected problems arise. What will you do if he has an unexpected episode of incontinence? How will you handle flight delays? Talk to the airlines about providing a wheelchair even if your father can walk, sometimes walking long distances can take a toll and cause unnecessary exhaustion.

I’ve always wanted to take my mother on a trip to Europe (or we have a family reunion coming up) is it wise given her dementia?

A person with dementia can travel as long as extra thought and precaution is given to the trip beforehand. Only you know your loved one well enough to make that call. You should measure the pros and cons of traveling with your mother and see if the benefits outweigh the negative. Some people choose to modify the trip so that it is not as long or involved. Accessibility can become an issue on longer flights or overseas travel. Sometimes modifications to traveling like a short cruise or more local vacations can be much more rewarding for everyone. For family gatherings consider your loved one’s current abilities and memory loss alongside your desires to have them attend the event. In the end you will know what is best for your loved one and remember to travel safely.

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