Summer is a time for family vacations. Many families will be taking their loved ones with dementia with them. Before making travel arrangements with a loved one with dementia, determine their true level of needs and abilities. Dementia interferes not only with memory, it interferes with insight and judgment. As dementia progresses, travel gets harder and harder. Travel can be overwhelming and traumatizing to someone in later stages of dementia.
If travel is possible, use the following tips to make your travel easier:
1. Make all travel is arranged to be done during the times of day when your loved one is at their best.
2. Be prepared for some behavioral disturbances related to the change in environment or increased stimulation. These can include wandering, confusion, and agitation.
3. Keep a few “dementia travel companion” cards in your pocket to provide to transportation personnel, hotel staff and even fellow travelers.
4. Keep a comfort bag for your loved one with you at all times. Include in the bag a list of their medications with dosage, emergency contact information, copies of the legal documents allowing you to make medical and other decisions for your loved one, and their health insurance information.
5. Ask for assistance from airport personnel to make movement less difficult for your loved one.
6. Create a detailed itinerary in large font and give a copy to your loved one if he/she is still able to read. When he/she gets confused refer to the itinerary.
7. Alert airport personnel, hotel staff and relatives of your loved one’s difficulties.