Thinking of your summer vacation? If you’re caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, a little advance planning can make your trip less stressful and as safe as possible. In the early stages of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s may experience little difficulty and enjoy travelling. As the disease progresses, changes in the person’s abilities may make it harder to manage changes in unfamiliar surroundings and daily routine.
These tips will make your next trip more manageable:
- Include and prepare the person in your planning. Give them a copy of the itinerary.
- A new environment may be confusing for the person with dementia. Aim for as few changes in routine as reasonably possible. The person in your care may also have some difficulty readjusting to being home afterwards.
- If you’re visiting with 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. They 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 the travel agent is aware of any special needs the person may have.
- Find out as much as you can ahead of time about your destination, so you can anticipate what to bring or how much time is required 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 they respond to and details of their preferred places of interest. (This is particularly important if they go missing.)
- Keep a copy of the name and number of the hotel in a familiar spot in the person’s purse or pocket, so they can ask for help in case they get lost.
- If the anticipation of the trip causes the person to become anxious, wait until just shortly before you leave to tell them.
- 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 long distances by car, consider extending the time to get there and drive shorter distances each day.
Ask for help
- If possible, have an additional person travel with you to help.
- Inform the airline that you’re travelling with a person with dementia. Ask for early boarding, a wheelchair or transportation upon arrival. You may also need help with getting on and off the plane or stowing carry-on baggage.
- Request a wheelchair at the airport. Even if the person with Alzheimer’s is mobile, it can help you get from place to place. It also makes it easier to get help from airport staff and flight crew.
- Request seating near the washrooms.
- If you’re staying at a hotel, let the staff know about the person’s needs and some of the possible difficulties or problems you think you may encounter.
For more information or if you and your family need help and support, contact your local Alzheimer Society by visiting www.alzheimer.ca