When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s travel plans do not need to be canceled. The family trips can continue but require more careful planning. Along with the planning, consider the obstacles and pack a travel toolkit for the unexpected. Here are some tips to help you plan for your next trip.
For a safe journey
- Enroll in an Alzheimer’s Medic Alert + Safe Return Program. Be sure to advise the program of your travel plans. Changes in familiar locations may cause loved ones to wander.
- Unfamiliar locations are confusing to the one with Alzheimer’s. Plan your travels to familiar destinations and try to stay with normal daily routines, when possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Especially if husband and wife travel as a couple, without another caregiver. Several public restrooms will have more than one entrance and exit into the facility. If family public restrooms are not available and one person goes into the restroom, the one with Alzheimer’s is left alone. This can be very upsetting in an unfamiliar location and one may get lost.
- Inform the staff at hotels of the unique situation and specific needs upon check in.
- Individuals with Alzheimer’s may present more difficult personalities later in the day. This is often referred to as Sundowner’s Syndrome. Plan your travels during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia.
- Research your final destination to determine if there is a contact with the Alzheimer’s Association nearby.
- If possible place a medic alert bracelet on your loved one or stitch an identification tag inside their clothing. Be sure to include an emergency contact telephone number with the ID tag.
For hassle-free air travel
- Advise the airlines and airport security/services prior to travel to make sure they are able to help you if the need arises.
- Upon check in and boarding an airplane, it is recommended that you remind airport employees and in-flight crew of your unique needs. This will help avoid any disruption during boarding process and flight.
- Consider requesting a wheelchair to minimize any confusion when moving through security screening and locating proper gates. This can be extremely helpful during flights that require many stops, especially international flights. An airport employee is assigned to the passenger in need of the wheelchair and can be a big help when navigating unfamiliar airports. The extra assistance with the airport employee may be very important if you get separated during airport screening.
What to put in your travel toolkit
- Copies of all important documents including a copy of their passport. (a copy of legal documents like power of attorney, a list of doctors names and contact information, a list of medications and dosages, a record of any food or drug allergies, a log of emergency contact information for friends and family and all health care insurance information).
- Medication (be sure to keep an additional supply of medication in a second location). Pack daily medication in a daily dispenser. During times of travel and time changes the daily dispenser will help you keep track of medications taken.
- Travel itinerary
- An extra change of clothes and disposable cleansing wipes for your loved one. These are key parts of your toolkit, especially if your loved one experiences moments of incontinence.
- Comforting items from home help minimize the stress of travel. Perhaps a favorite lap blanket or small pillow.
- Snacks are also a good idea. Pack snacks that are not messy when handled and ones that won’t melt. Consider adding a bottle of water after passing through airport security.
- Bring activity items that you can use to stimulate your loved one during travel delays. Perhaps a favorite book, magazine, deck of cards or a small set of favorite photographs.
Be sure to pack your Alzheimer’s toolkit in a backpack or shoulder bag, small enough to keep with you as a carry-on item. Knowing that you are prepared for emergencies will help you and your loved one have a stress-free journey.
Whether you travel by airplane, train or car, you and your loved one can still enjoy traveling. Although Alzheimer’s may make the journey more challenging, if you prepare for all the possible obstacles prior to leaving home you and your loved one can have a safe and pleasant adventure.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s – www.alz.org
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