How to prepare to travel with an Alzheimer’s patient | Dementia issues can affect summer travel plans

This summer, 208 million American adults plan to travel. Some of those people are probably caregivers, brave souls, traveling with cognitively challenged loved ones.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia requires extensive planning. If you’re considering a summer road trip or air trip with someone diagnosed with cognitive impairment, the following tips may help.

Is it a good idea?

Before booking an airline or planning a road trip, do an honest assessment of your situation. Is the idea realistic? Your loved one’s level of cognitive decline or stage of Alzheimer’s disease determines this.

Barring exceptions to the rule, it is impossible to travel with an Alzheimer’s patient in the last stages of the disease. However, a trip together is possible if your loved one has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and is in good health and cleared to travel by their doctor.

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Mode of travel

Instead of flying or traveling by train, driving offers a measure of control. It removes the complexity of lags and delays, which can confuse one with madness.

Choose carefully how to travel, remembering that your loved one must have official photo identification to fly or travel by train or bus. This can be a problem for seniors who no longer drive or those with expired identification. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what documents are required to obtain a new ID.

A trip to the DMV is challenging for someone with cognitive impairment, so you don’t want to be asked to return for lack of proper proof of residency or other information. Some states have mobile DMV units that provide convenient access for seniors. Contact your local DMV for one in your area.

In addition to identification, do not leave home without proof of vaccination against COVID-19, just in case it is required during your trip.

You made the decision. Now what?

You take care on the road when you holiday with someone with dementia, so plan accordingly.

  • If you decide to travel by air, book direct flights if possible.
  • Include breaks for meals, bathrooms and lying down while driving.
  • If a drive requires multiple days, secure hotel rooms before leaving home.
  • Prepare for the unexpected and purchase travel insurance when booking flights, hotels and rental cars.

Essentials of travel care

You’ll need the same basic grooming essentials while on vacation that you do at home. Pack incontinence pads and adult diapers. Super absorbent or overnight diapers are great choices for long trips. Also include the following items:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Absorbent disinfectant wipes
  • Easy shoes to put on and take off in the car
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Bottled water to stay hydrated
  • Healthy snacks
  • Rolls of paper towels or extra wipes for glove compartment
  • Audiobook or an activity/puzzle book to occupy your loved one
  • Insect spray
  • Sun hat and sun protection
  • Masks for COVID-19
  • A battery-powered alarm that will go off if your loved one tries to wander out of an unfamiliar environment

Traveling with someone with dementia is not the easiest experience, but a short vacation or trip with an elderly parent or spouse in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may be the last one you have together.

Proceed with caution, practice patience and embrace the memories.

Happy summer!


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a disease news and information website. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not his Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to stimulate discussion about issues related to Alzheimer’s disease.

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