This article originally appeared in Alzheimers.net
Summer is just around the corner and for many of us, that means fun family vacations. These vacations can turn stressful, however, for caregivers who are traveling with a parent or senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Although it can be overwhelming, foresight and proper preparation make it possible. Learn more from these caregiver tips for traveling with Alzheimer’s.
Should You Travel With Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with symptoms worsening over time. No matter if you’re traveling a short distance for a family reunion or planning a longer vacation, carefully weigh the pros and cons of traveling with a loved one with the disease.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and with the right preparation, traveling in the summer can still be enjoyable. However, as the disease progresses, travel may simply become too overwhelming.
When planning your vacation, consider these factors:
- Can you travel comfortably and safely?
- Do you have a support system available when you arrive?
- Is the destination a familiar one to your loved one?
- Will the trip be too disorientating for your loved one?
10 Tips for Traveling With Alzheimer’s
Once you decide you can make the trip safely, here are 10 ways caregivers can lessen the stress of traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s:
1. Allow extra time.
Whether driving in a car or taking a flight, keep in mind that your loved one may need extra time to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Stay patient with them and allow plenty of time to make travel less stressful.
2. Be sure your loved one is wearing an identification bracelet.
This is especially important for seniors who may wander. If you do not have an ID bracelet for them, put their name on their clothing and be sure they have your number and a list of medical conditions in their wallet.
3. Carry important documents and medications with you.
These documents should include emergency contact information, a list of current food allergies, medications and physician information. Also, have your travel itinerary and insurance information readily available.
4. Consider hiring a medical transport service.
If your travel needs are imminent and you cannot leave a loved one in respite care but anticipate travel will be extremely difficult, consider hiring a medical transport service. These professionals can provide air and ground transportation and many will allow a caregiver or small pet to accompany your loved one.
5. Consider staying in a hotel rather than with relatives.
A hotel can give your loved one a calm place to go when the trip becomes hectic. They may also be able to stick to their routine better in a hotel. In addition, some family members may not be familiar with Alzheimer’s and might not know what to expect. Be sure to make the hotel staff aware of any special needs in advance.
6. Create an itinerary for emergency contacts.
Make your own itinerary and distribute it to family and friends while also keeping a copy with you at all times. The itinerary should detail your emergency phone numbers, flight numbers, medication needs, travel times and any other pertinent information. Keep it easily accessible to quickly find which can make the day of travel much smoother.
7. Keep surroundings as familiar as possible.
People with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty in new environments so try to bring familiar things from home on your trip (i.e., blankets, pajamas and pillows). Try to keep their routine the same to avoid confusion.
8. Keep travel time to less than four hours.
If your drive or flight is longer than four hours, be sure to have at least two caregivers present. Have activities and photos prepared to keep your loved one busy during the travel time.
9. Limit connections and layovers.
Try to take a direct flight to your destination to avoid a tight connection, further distress and a missed flight. Many airlines will allow you to pre-board which will give your loved one more time to adjust to their new surroundings.
10. Set realistic expectations.
People with Alzheimer’s need consistency so it is often easier to travel with someone in the earlier stages of the disease. If your loved one exhibits delusional, disinhibited behavior, physical or verbal aggression, has a high risk of falling or has unstable medical conditions it may be a better idea to find summer fun locally.