Are you planning a trip with someone who has dementia? If their medical provider has cleared them for travel, and the pros outweigh the cons, don’t leave home without a game plan.
Traveling from home can be daunting or even scary. Scary for you, because their safety is in your hands. And scary for someone with memory issues, because airports, crowds and strange surroundings can trigger stress, agitation and confusion.
Plan for extra time
Tight deadlines and crowded airports are not a great combo when you have memory issues. If you have a flight to catch, arrive early. You can always stop for a leisurely bite to eat once you’ve been through the security line.
Arrange for accommodations
Before you book the flight, speak with the airline. You’ll want to inform them of your loved one’s special needs and talk over any accommodations they can provide for memory patients. Early boarding, for example, lets your loved one settle in at their pace without being jostled and hustled along by the crowds.
Get a wearable ID
Despite best efforts, people get separated, especially if your loved one gets confused and walks away while you’re trying to check in your luggage. Get a bracelet or lanyard that has your loved one’s name along with a means to contact you (i.e. your name and mobile number). Better yet, get involved with the Hidden Disability Sunflower Lanyard program. The sunflower lanyard gives your loved one a discreet way to alert airport workers that your loved one has dementia and has special needs.
Before you go, read up on the Hidden Disability Sunflower Lanyard program.
Keep things comfortably familiar
Once you arrive, build the trip around all things familiar. That means sticking to regular mealtimes with their preferred foods. Consider opting for their faves, versus sampling exciting new cuisines. Ideally, you’re headed for a place they would recognize. Tip: If you can, pack along a few familiar objects to make their home away from home more familiar. It can be a framed photo of a pet, a favorite lap blanket, a ceramic cat — as long as it’s portable, replaceable and sends a signal they’re at home base, it will do.
Consider staying in a hotel
Staying with family can be a great way to save money and get in some much needed quality time, but unless your host has ample space — and firsthand knowledge of caring for someone with dementia — your best bet is a hotel. If your loved gets stressed and overstimulated, a hotel room can be an oasis and an escape. It can also be a welcome respite at the end of a busy day, a place where you can finish up the daily routine in peace and quiet.
Roll with the changes
Traveling with someone with dementia means it’s important to expect the unexpected. They can get agitated, disorientated and confused, which means you’ll have to be flexible and get them to a place — like the hotel room — where they can settle and soothe. Plan plenty of breaks and be attuned to their needs from moment to moment.
Learn more about dementia from “Insights from Arthur’s” featuring educational videos from Arthur’s Director of Development and Senior Care Consultant Deb Nygaard.