Good afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Today’s topic is “Tips for Traveling with Someone with Alzheimer’s.”
Summer. A time when many families make travel plans. Whether you’re taking a short trip to visit family and friends or traveling far from home, it’s important to consider the difficulties and benefits of traveling with someone with Alzheimer’s.
Traveling with someone with AD can be challenging and stressful. They often have difficulty with new environments and people, changes in routines and time zones, noise, and fatigue. That’s why it’s better to travel when they’re in the early stages of the disease. That’s when your loved one is less likely to become disoriented, agitated or distressed.
You may want to make a “trial run.” Take a short trip using the same method of transportation you planned on for the longer trip. Doing so will give you a good idea concerning your loved one’s capacity for travel. If they don’t tolerate the shorter trip, you may want to think twice about bringing them along.
There are a number of signs that may indicate travel isn’t a good idea:
- Being disoriented, confused or agitated even in familiar settings
- Wanting to go home when they’re away from home on short visits
- Exhibiting delusional or paranoid behavior
- Teary, anxious, or withdrawn behavior in crowded, noisy settings
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Yelling, screaming or crying impulsively
- High risk of falling
- Unstable medical conditions
As a caregiver, you should assess yourself to make sure you’re prepared to travel with someone with Alzheimer’s. While traveling, you’ll have to manage unexpected events and challenging behaviors, sometimes in public. You might face stressful situations and lack of sleep. You must show patience and flexibility in your plans and have realistic expectations.
Here are some tips to consider when planning to travel with someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Bring copies of important documents and information that includes:
- Emergency contact information
- Doctors’ names and their contact information
- List of current medications and dosages
- List of drug or food allergies
- Copies of legal papers, such as a living will, advanced directives and power of attorney
- Insurance information
- Travel itinerary
- Have your loved one carry or wear identification (like an ID bracelet) at all times. Consider putting their name in their clothing. Be sure the following information is on their person: name, important phone numbers and any medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s.
Remember to pack the following:
- Water, drinks
- Activities to do while traveling and at your destination
- Their favorite items
- Consider consulting with a health care professional about medications for mood swings, pain, nausea, diarrhea or other temporary issues that might come up while traveling.
- Being prepared in case of an emergency is critical. Assemble an emergency kit in a watertight bag or container that includes:
- Copies of important documents and identification
- Recent picture of your loved one
- Extra clothing
- Extra medication
- Incontinence products
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Try to travel to familiar, stable and regimented settings and make the trip as short and simple as possible.
- Build flexibility into your plans to give your loved one time to adjust and rest as needed.
- Allow plenty of time for everything.
- Try to travel during their best time of day.
- Don’t drive alone with a person who’s agitated. Your safety and theirs as well as that of others on the road, could be at risk.
- Take regular rest breaks. Check that all their basic needs are met, such as toileting, hydration and nutrition.
- Be sure your loved one is wearing comfortable clothes that allow for ease when using the toilet.
- Don’t leave them unsupervised, especially in new surroundings. They should have a familiar and reassuring companion with them at all times.
- Avoid crowded, busy or loud places, especially if your loved one is tired.
- The level of activity at airports and other travel stations can be confusing or stressful to an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Be on the lookout for signs of distress and try to calm them down. Reassure them that everything is alright and then remove them from the stressful setting.
- Inform the airlines, travel, or hotel staff of any special needs in advance to ensure that they’re prepared to assist you. Always ask for help. Others can’t help you if they don’t know you need help.
- Use services designated for people with disabilities.
- Be sure your destination has a safe environment. Keep the following in mind:
- Working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
- Nonslip surface in the shower or bathtub
- Water temperature. Faucets in new places may be confusing so make sure the temperature is properly adjusted.
- Adequate lighting in the hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms. Take along several nightlights just in case.
- Try to remove potential hazards and clutter, such as the coffee maker and hair dryer.
- Be aware of the risk of wandering that can be set off by a change in the environment. If you’re staying in a hotel and wandering is a problem:
- Lock the door to your room and put a chair in front of it.
- Consider using a portable door alarm or childproof doorknob cover.
- If there are two beds, sleep in the one closest to the door.
- Control access to car keys.
- Try to keep a sense of humor and enjoy your time with your loved one.
- Watch the clock. Sundowner’s Syndrome intensifies fear and agitation right before dark. Get your loved one back to the room before the sun goes down. Lower the curtains and turn on the lights. This will lessen the drastic change from day to night.
- Traveling in airports calls for considerable focus and attention. At times, the level of activity can be distracting, overwhelming or difficult to understand for someone with Alzheimer’s. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re flying.
- Avoid scheduling flights that have tight connections. Find out about airport escort services that can help you get from place to place.
- Inform the airline and airport medical service department of your needs in advance to make sure they can help. Most airlines will work with you to accommodate special needs.
- If appropriate, tell airport employees, screeners and in-flight crew members that you’re traveling with someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Even if walking isn’t a problem, consider requesting a wheelchair.
If you think traveling with your loved one might be too difficult, consider respite care at an assisted living facility. Many offer quality short-term care along with social activities. A good way to approach the idea of respite care is to tell your loved one they’re going on a vacation, too. Worried about being separated from your loved one? You can call the facility as often as you like to make sure everything’s okay.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Monday when I’ll discuss elderly safety in the home.