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Tips for Traveling with a Loved One with Dementia

Thursday August 1, 2013

Traveling with an individual with dementia can be tricky. And while he or she is not going through a second childhood, I would ask that you think back to a time when you were traveling with an infant or toddler to think of some of the things you did to prepare for such a trip.

Identification is imperative. Whether you are traveling by car, boat, train or plane you must make certain that the one with dementia has identification on their person that not only identifies them but also identifies you and a contact that is not traveling with your party. There are methods of identification, but the Safe Return bracelet through the Alzheimer’s Association is a great choice. (Click here for more information on the Safe Return bracelet from the Alzheimer’s Association.) Also, a simply laminated card or a dog tag can list essential identification information.

A passport pocket is another good way to have ID and contact information for the individual, whether or not a passport is necessary. It is a thorough form of identification and is visible around a person’s neck – a great method. And YOU need similar identification indicating that you are traveling with someone who has dementia and needs assistance. Finally, be sure to have a recent photo of the one with dementia on your phone or with you in case he or she becomes lost.

If you are traveling by car, be certain to have a cell phone and subscribe to a roadside assistance program, so you won’t have to leave the vehicle if a problem occurs. Leave an itinerary and a description of the route you are taking with people on either end of your route. If possible, have two drivers rather than traveling alone with the one with dementia. If you are driving alone, and the driver becomes ill or tired, there would be no one to be responsible for the one with dementia.

Always have water and snacks on hand as well as additional disposable undergarments, wipes and gallon zip top bags to seal used undergarments and wipes in, and always have a change of clothes and shoes in case of accidents. Some familiar music and/or magazines would also be great additions to longer journeys to help pass the time.

When selecting a place to stay, a hotel with inside doors, rather than a hotel with doors that open to a parking lot, is much more secure. Wherever you spend the night, alert an employee at the lobby desk or the lodging manager that you are traveling with an individual with dementia. If your loved one leaves the room or becomes disoriented, the staff can be more helpful if they are informed. Changes in surroundings can cause temporary declines in individuals with dementia, and confusion can ramp up. Be prepared for this. Just because you’ve made the trip to this location many times, don’t anticipate that it will be the same as it always has been.

If you’re traveling by air, have a letter from a physician for the TSA, so there will hopefully be less difficulty if your loved one is singled out for further screening. Also, alert the airline that you are traveling with someone with dementia. When traveling with my daughter, I often found it easier to be seated in the front row, bulkhead seats. I never traveled with Mother by air, but I would suspect that sitting in these front row seats with her would have been the easiest seating option as well.

If you’re attending a gathering, such as wedding or reunion, have another person ready to assist in case the individual with dementia becomes over stimulated and needs a break from the action when you can’t take a break.

We wish you happy and safe travels! If you have additional travel situations about which you are seeking advice or if you have specific questions, give us a call at 901-854-1200, drop by, or send us an email (katie@pagerobbins.org), and we’ll do our best to assist you.

Written by: Herbie Krisle, Executive Director