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What You Should Know When Traveling With An Alzheimer's Patient

We get a lot of questions about caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease. Many questions focus on how to keep them involved in family affairs and outings. If you are planning on traveling with an Alzheimer's patient, Lori Nisson, Family and Community Services Director at Banner Alzheimer's Institute has some tips:

Set realistic expectations

Traveling with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia requires flexibility, foresight and the ability to set realistic expectations.

Due to the progression of the disease, the ease with which patients can travel and adapt to their surroundings depends on the stage of their illness. Generally speaking, those in the early stages of dementia may travel quite well. However, the cognitive and functional changes over the course of the disease can make traveling much more difficult down the road.

Consistency is key to care, so plan accordingly

People with Alzheimer’s disease need consistency in routine and environment, which often does not come with traveling. Thorough planning is essential to alleviating undue stress and confusion. Consider:

  • Your loved one's individual limits
  • Requirements regarding personal assistance with activities like bathing and eating
  • Overall comfort in unfamiliar settings

Do a trial run

A trial overnight or weekend excursion can shed light on how she may respond during a larger vacation. If the test trip doesn’t go well, then you may need to reconsider taking your loved one on vacation.

When you still want to go

If you ultimately decide to proceed with your vacation, avoid setting yourself and your loved one up for a challenging trip by making plans that are within the patient’s limits.

  • Select an efficient and convenient method of travel and avoid touring trips that require going from place to place.
  • Rather than rely on strangers or unfamiliar friends and relatives to help care for the person, have the regular caregiver join in the vacation for added support and stability.
  • People with moderate Alzheimer’s should never travel alone.
  • When visiting relatives, stay in a nearby hotel rather than their home. This will ensure a calm place of retreat where your loved one can establish a routine that is not disrupted by differing mealtimes and schedules. It is also important to realize that these family members may not be familiar with the person’s changed abilities and behaviors.
  • Since the effects of Alzheimer’s can be unpredictable, secure travel insurance and book refundable airline tickets.

For those with Alzheimer’s, vacations may not be an opportunity to build wonderful memories. Rather, they are viewed as a source of disruption and uncertainty. Therefore, you will have more success when you weave more structure and familiarity into the trip.

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Alzheimers Disease and Dementia Caregiving