INDIANA – Thanksgiving travel is expected to increase this year. Planning and taking a trip can be particularly stressful for the 110,000 Hoosiers living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter is offering tips to help.
First, families may want to consider the difficulties and benefits of travel for a person with dementia. In the early stages of dementia, a person may still enjoy traveling. As the disease progresses, travel may become too overwhelming.
When deciding to travel, consider what the best mode is for the person with the disease and go with the option that provides the most comfort and the least anxiety.
Additional tips include:
- Stick with the familiar. Travel to known destinations that involve as few changes in daily routine as possible. Try to visit places that were familiar before the onset of dementia.
- Keep in mind that there may come a time when traveling is too disorienting or stressful for the person with dementia.
- Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, your travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks and activities.
- Pack necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important legal documents.
- Create an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to emergency contacts at home. Keep a copy of your itinerary with you at all times.
- If you will be staying in a hotel, inform the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
- Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia.
- Keep in mind that changes in the environment can trigger wandering. Even for a person in the early stages, new environments may be more difficult to navigate. When possible, avoid places that are highly congested, which can trigger disorientation and confusion. Provide supervision at all times; do not leave a person with dementia alone.
There are also special considerations when it comes to air travel. At times, the level of activity can be distracting, overwhelming, or difficult to understand for someone with dementia. If you are traveling by plane, keep the following in mind:
- Avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections. Ask about airport escort services that can help you get from place to place.
- Inform the airline and airport medical service department ahead of time of your needs to make sure they can help you. Most airlines will work with you to accommodate special needs.
- If appropriate, tell airport employees, screeners and in-flight crew members that you are traveling with someone who has dementia.
- Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an airport employee is assigned to help you get from place to place.
- Allow for extra time.
Additional tips are available at alz.org/travel. The Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 is also available – even on holidays – to provide additional information and assistance.