Holiday Travel Tips When a Loved One has Alzheimer's
The holidays are a hectic time to travel. In some families, the holidays are the one time of year all generations are reunited. And no one wants to miss out on the reunion. If your family’s travel plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah include a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease, preparing ahead of time is the key.
Six Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers Traveling During the Holidays
Here are six tips to help make holiday travel easier for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Time of Day: The hustle and bustle of the holiday travel season can be overwhelming for all of us, but especially for those with memory impairment. Think about the times of day when your loved one is at their best and worst. Then, plan your travels around those times. If they suffer from sundowning, for example, schedule your day so you are done traveling before evening.
- TSA PreCheck Screenings: Call the airports you will be traveling through to ask about TSA PreCheck screening requirements. Adults aged 75 and older often qualify for expedited screening. This usually means they won’t have to remove shoes, belts, and other belongings at security. A senior with Alzheimer’s might also qualify for special considerations if you notify the TSA ahead of time. For example, the TSA might be able to perform the security screenings for you and your loved one together.
- Meaningful Activity: The change in environment and all the sitting around might lead to increased stress and agitation for a person living with memory impairment. Planning meaningful activities, such as folding fabric swatches or flipping through a family photo album, might help keep them busy during long drive times and airport delays.
- Pack for an Emergency: None of us want to think a crisis will occur during a holiday getaway, but it’s better to be prepared just in case. Before you leave home, make sure you have your senior loved one’s important medical information with you. You can do this by making copies of their health file or by using an app on your cell phone, such as Health Tracker or CareZone, to save medical information for easy access.
- GPS Tracking: One fear shared by many families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s is wandering. A change in environment can increase agitation, which in turn increases the risk for wandering. If you become separated from your loved one in a busy airport or at a roadside travel plaza, it can be distressing for everyone involved. GPS technologies thatuse cellular service can offer you peace of mind. Pendants, watches, and even shoes with GPS in the soles can help you track your loved one’s location in real time.
- Contact Cards: While you don’t want to diminish your senior loved one’s dignity, it is important that people know how to contact you if the two of you become separated during holiday travel. An easy way to ensure that is to create simple emergency contact cards. Put your name and contact information on a card, along with contact information for one or two additional trusted friends and family members. Place these cards in your senior family member’s shirt pocket, travel bag, wallet, and purse.
Resources for Traveling with an Adult Who has Dementia
The Alzheimer’s Association has additional resources for families who will be traveling with a senior who has dementia. You will find more detailed information on air travel, packing tips, and planning.
For some seniors with dementia, traveling just isn’t a safe idea. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and miss family holiday celebrations.
The holidays are a festive time of year in Sunrise Senior Living communities and a great time for a short-term respite stay. Your loved one can participate in all of the programs and activities our long-term memory care residents enjoy while also receiving the care and support they need.
Call the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more about holiday respite for a senior with Alzheimer’s.