No matter the mode of transportation, traveling with a loved one who has dementia differs greatly from traveling with other friends and family members. Preparing the necessary resources for a long trip that crosses state lines can be daunting for caregivers. The Administration on Aging (AoA) recognized this need along with the countless additional needs of caregivers during all stages of dementia. AoA decided to create its Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Their website can be found at https://www.caregiver.org/. One of the website’s many articles notes that traveling can be very intimidating and outlines eight practical tips to best approach the situation. FCA refers to loved ones as care recipients.
First, understand the ramifications of traveling with the care recipient. Ask yourself if you are willing to accept the responsibility, given their complex care needs in a potentially stressful and disorienting situation. Next, ensure that the care recipient has proper identification and consider listing your cell number on the care recipient’s identification so that you can be reached in the event that you are separated for any reason. Carry a current photo of the care recipient. Do not hesitate to ask for special accommodations from the airlines, bus or train operators. You may be able to acquire a seat in a quieter setting with more leg room. Or you may be able to board early to avoid the crowd of people all boarding at the same time.
Regardless of how you are traveling, arrange for breaks throughout the day for a quiet snack or bathroom use. FCA notes that this is also essential for you as the caregiver to “take a breath.” Carry a change of clothing handy for your loved one in case of a spill or episode of incontinence. Pack as lightly and efficiently as possible since you will be responsible for managing luggage in addition to caring for your loved one throughout the trip. Schedule flights and drives in an effort to maintain routines as best as possible around things like meals and medications.
Lastly, when planning travel, always have a back-up plan. Consider purchasing trip insurance in the event that health needs change and the trip has to be canceled. Ensure that another loved one is aware of your itinerary and can substitute for you if necessary. Make sure you have the proper expectations and understand that if you are planning to drive a long distance in a tight time-frame, those plans may need to change. FCA notes, “Due to unexpected agitation, confusion, or disorientation, things may not always go according to plan.” Be prepared, knowledgeable about your care recipient and be flexible. To read the full FCA article, visit https://www.caregiver.org/navigating-travel-loved-one-who-has-alzheimers-disease.
Another resource guide for travel is one developed by the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alz.org/asian/downloads/topicsheet_travelsafety_EN.pdf. This also includes special considerations specifically for air travel.
At Weatherby & Associates, PC, we work closely with our life care planning clients to help them navigate the expectations and realities of caring for elderly parents with dementia. If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach us at 860-769-6938.