Traveling with Dementia: Try these Tips for Success

Traveling with Dementia
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Perhaps your loved one has dementia, you're hoping to travel in a few weeks and you'd like to take her along. Is it doable? Is it wise? Is it worth it for your loved one?

Start with these suggestions and although there's no guarantee, you'll be more likely to experience success.

1. Allow plenty of extra time

Any excursion-- and especially one involving a person with dementia-- is likely to be more successful without the pressure of this: "Hurry up!

You're taking forever to get dressed! We're going to be late! We've gotta go now! Ugh- we keep hitting all the red lights!"

2. If possible, choose a familiar location.

If you have the choice of getting together at your son's home where your mother has been many times prior to her diagnosis of dementia, and your daughter's house which was purchased three months ago, request to go to your son's home. The familiarity may be reassuring to your mother.

3. Pack a special travel bag.

Prepare a travel kit ahead of time that includes your loved one's medications, a list of these medications including the times of administration and doses, something that's reassuring to her such as her favorite book, the slippers she knitted a few years ago, a recording of her favorite songs, her favorite snack, a water bottle, legal documents such as a power of attorney and living will, a recent picture of her and emergency contact information.

4. If you're flying, avoid layovers if possible.

Layovers can trigger additional stress, both because of the need to catch the connecting flight as well as the multiple transitions. It may be well worth a few more dollars to book a direct flight if possible.

5. Ask the most familiar family member to accompany the person with dementia.

Especially in a different location, the presence of the primary caregiver can help reassure and orient the person who has dementia.

6. Enroll her in the Safe Return program.

The Alzheimer's Association recommends enrolling the individual in the Safe Return program. Because of the new and often disconcerting and confusing setting, your loved one is at an increased risk of wandering. The Safe Return program can offer an additional layer of safety and protection. Even if your mother has not wandered at home and you don't think she'll start when you travel, you should still consider this option since she's in an unfamiliar environment.

7. Prepare small paper notes that inform the reader that your mother has dementia.

This strategy can be helpful if your loved one begins to act out with challenging behaviors or requires additional assistance in a public place. Rather than potentially embarrassing her by verbally stating that she has dementia, you can discreetly hand the slip of paper to the person and ask for additional assistance and understanding for your mother. This can be helpful in many situations, including the airport screening process, the wait for a table at a restaurant, or the large family reunion where others may not be aware of her condition.

8. Give a copy of the itinerary to your loved one.

Especially in the earlier stages of dementia, having a copy of the itinerary to reference can be reassuring and help her have a feeling of control in the unfamiliar routine and setting.

9. If possible, have another person accompany you to assist you.

Having a second person along can be very beneficial, even in the small things like being able to reassure your mother while you use the restroom, take a shower or help make dinner.

10. Know when to skip it.

Conditions such as extreme agitation, aggression, persistent wandering or hallucinations and delusions are warning signs that your trip is unlikely to be wise or productive.

Sources:
Alzheimer's Association. Traveling with Dementia. Accessed December 13, 2015. http://alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-and-traveling.asp

Alzheimer's Society. August 19, 2015. Travel. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/Day-to-day-living/Driving-and-transportation/Travel

Cheong, J. Traveling and Dementia. Accessed December 13, 2015. alzonline.phhp.ufl.edu/pp_slides/10_24_02Traveling.ppt

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