Beach vacation

Now is the time to plan your next vacation…whether you live in a tropical environment and you’re dreaming of snow, or you live in the north and you’re sick of the snow, longing for a place to lounge around the beach.

Traveling can be fun and adventurous.  However, if you’re traveling with someone who has dementia, traveling can be stressful and somewhat challenging. This stress if often due to the difficulty those with Alzheimer’s disease often face.  These difficulties include changes in routine, new environments, noise, and new people.  Due to memory loss, they often get confused and angry.  Therefore, they require a great amount of patience and understanding from those with whom they’re traveling, as well as those around them.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and confusion may be somewhat mild, but noticeable.  However, as the disease progresses these issues become more severe, and can be most painful for caregivers and family members. The most opportune time for travel is during the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Your loved one is less likely to become disoriented or agitated during this time.

If you are planning a long trip, it is best to try a “trial run” by arranging a short trip to see how your loved one handles the travel.  Obviously if he/she is unable to tolerate the short trip, it is not a good idea to schedule the longer trip.  In addition to paying attention to signs of distress such as delusional/paranoid behavior, aggression, consistent disorientation, and anxiety, there are certain tips to consider if you plan to travel with a loved one with dementia.

Here are the top 5 tips to consider:

  1. Do not leave your loved one unsupervised, especially if you are in new surroundings.
  2. Ensure you have copies of important documents such as doctors’ contact information, list of medications/dosages/allergies, identification, and legal papers. You can also have your loved one carry or wear identification, such as an ID bracelet, and notate that they have dementia.
  3. Inform the airlines, hotel, etc prior to your travel of any special needs you have. These can include working smoke alarms, non-slip shower/bath surfaces, and proper lighting.
  4. If you will stay in a hotel and your loved one is prone to wandering off, be sure to take precautions such as locking the door or hiding the room/car keys.
  5. Above all, be flexible. Allow plenty of time for traveling, sightseeing and regular rest breaks.

Traveling with someone who has dementia doesn’t have to be stressful.  Preparation is the key. It is important to have a sense of humor about your time with your loved one. Chances are that if you’re having fun, they’ll have fun.  So, go ahead, plan your next trip!