Vail Daily column: Traveling with Alzheimer’s or dementia
For many families, the holidays mean packing everyone in the car or taking a flight to another part of the country. Traveling is not always easy, but it can be especially hard when a member of your family has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The following guide, which includes tips from the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Services and the Alzheimer’s Association, will hopefully help take the stress out of traveling for you and your family.
• Make sure you have a comfortable change of clothes, plenty of water and any necessary food and/or medications.
• Bring a complete list of contact numbers. These should include emergency contacts, your loved one’s doctor, emergency services in the areas you are traveling through and contact numbers for your hotel.
Give your loved one some form of ID they can wear or carry on them. You might also consider enrolling in wearable locater programs such as MedicAlert or the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program.
• Create an itinerary for your trip.
• Plan for delays and give yourself of extra time. Call ahead to your destination to see if they allow early arrivals. This will reduce the chance of stressful situations.
• Plan for familiar routes and destinations whenever possible.
• Plan to limit or entirely avoid stressful situations such as short connection times.
• Avoid expressing irritation or anger as much as possible. Stress can be contagious, especially in confined environments.
• Try to travel with more than one caregiver if possible so that it is easier to care for and keep an eye on your loved one.
Avoid traveling with those who will irritate or provoke stress in your loved one.
• If your loved one becomes agitated while you are driving, pull over. It is unsafe and will be counterproductive to try to calm them while driving.
• If staying at a hotel, motel or resort, inform the management and any staff you will regularly deal with of your loved one’s situation.
• If staying with family or friends, make sure they are aware in advance of your loved one’s needs. Not everyone knows the best way to interact with people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, so it is wise to speak with people individually and cover your loved one’s specific needs and tendencies.
Remember, when traveling with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it always best to be over prepared rather than under prepared. Plan thoroughly, be prepared for potential all imaginable emergencies and do everything you can to reduce or eliminate stress and discomfort. And if you have a care provider whom you can rely on for advice or help with trip preparation, do not hesitate to ask for their assistance.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.