Traveling with someone living with dementia can be a challenging process. Fear and anxiety can surface for you both, and it can become a scary experience that leads to panic for those living with the illness. That’s why preparing in advance is crucial so that you can prevent avoidable mishaps.
Before you head off on your trip, go over these seven tips to travel safely with dementia. They can help guide you in what to plan for and consider before you even depart.
Consider their abilities
Plan for a trip that will provide someone with dementia with the most comfort and cause the least amount of stress. For example, they may feel more relaxed if you take them somewhere they are familiar with and have travelled to in the past. This has less impact on the long-term memory. They may also be calmer with daylight, so you should book flights and plan for your departure travelling during the day and avoid the “sundown effect.”
Accommodate for their endurance
When planning excursions or even the itinerary itself, take the time to consider how much walking and sightseeing those you are traveling with can handle each day. For example, a winding hike up and down streets of a cliffside town is going to be much harder than a leisurely cruise. Design your trip around what everyone wants to see and do but accommodate for limited mobility or sufficient downtime each day. This will also overwhelm those with dementia less with them not feeling as if they need to catch up constantly. Going at a relaxed and leisurely pace is always best – everyone will enjoy the trip more that way.
Prepare medications and documents
The last thing you want is to leave behind essential medications, so be sure to pack them in advance. Make a checklist to make sure you have everything. Clearly label all medicines and carry the instructions with you on how they must be taken, along with a list of emergency contacts and copies of necessary legal documents. Ensure those traveling with you have a copy of this information on them as well, in case of separation or emergencies.
Get medical clearance from carriers and venues
Many airlines and hotels will need to know about special needs to better accommodate passengers and guests. Have medical information ready to present to the travel agent, airline, and hotel with you in case you ever need assistance. This proactive approach will do wonders to safeguard everyone in the group.
Ensure hotel safety
Look for hotels that have a straightforward layout and locked-down areas at night such as the pool area or entranceways. You can call and discuss your needs and requirements with the hotel before booking to ensure the hotel is equipped for your needs and are willing to help. They may even have staff on-hand in the evenings to watch out for seniors who wander. This way, when arrive you can provide a photo of the person with dementia and details on how to contact you in case the front desk staff notice them out and about on their own.
Use a GPS tracking device
In extreme circumstances when someone with dementia is separated from your group, a quick and secure way to find them is to attach a GPS tracking device to their backpack or to a part of their clothing where it is unnoticed by them. Examples include the Tile products, which are slim and affordable clip-on trackers that use Wi-Fi or cellular mobile connectivity to trace the whereabouts of whatever they are attached to. When traveling, this is also a great way to keep an eye on their luggage if they have a hard time keeping it all together.
By creating detailed itineraries about each destination, you can help your travel partner with dementia know where they should be in case you’re separated. By providing the agenda to emergency contacts at home and the hotel staff, they know how to contact you during your travels.
Get extra help
In cases of traveling someone with advanced dementia, it may be a good idea to get extra help. If a close friend or family member is unavailable, and if finances permit, some homecare companies such as Choice Homecare provide caregivers who can travel with you. Having a caregiver with dementia care experience can relieve much pressure and sometimes takes over so that you, as the family caregiver, can enjoy the travel as well.
It’s important to prepare well in advance to travel safely with dementia. By taking these proactive steps now, you can have peace of mind during your travels and get to relax and enjoy the trip.