Travel Safety Tips When a Family Member Has Memory Loss
Traveling may seem implausible when you are the family caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. From concerns about disrupting the senior’s routine to worries about increased agitation, it’s easy to understand why caregivers feel this way. But with thoughtful planning, taking a family member who has dementia along on a trip is often possible.
These five tips can help you enjoy a vacation getaway:
1. Choose the destination carefully.
Increased agitation is common when an adult with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia is out of their familiar environment. It might help to revisit favorite family vacation destinations that your loved one may still have fond memories of.
2. Think about travel times and methods.
As you plan your getaway, think about your family member’s best and worst times of day. As their caregiver, you likely have a pretty good idea of when those are. Try to work your travel arrangements around those times.
Also, give thought to the type of transportation you take. While airline travel might be fastest, it can also be the most stressful. Airports are often busy, noisy places, and flights are frequently delayed. For an adult with Alzheimer’s, that can increase anxiety and agitation.
By contrast, traveling by car allows you to control the pace of the trip while also maintaining a quieter environment. If your loved one is getting restless, you can stop and take a quick walk or get a snack.
3. Pack with care.
While no one likes to think something bad will happen on vacation, it’s always best to plan for an emergency. Make sure you have a copy of your family member’s health file, including their medical history, medication list, physical contact information, and any legal documents (e.g., power of attorney or living will) they have in place.
Also pack activities your loved one can engage in while you travel. It might be a box of favorite photos, playing cards to sort, or a knitting project. If your loved one responds well to music, set up their favorite songs on a playlist to play in the car or on headphones.
4. Ask travel staff for assistance.
Most airports and airlines offer programs for travelers who need assistance. The Department of Transportation has a variety of resources you can review to learn more about them. Call the airline directly in advance of your trip to make arrangements and to learn about their boarding protocols.
If you are staying at a hotel, call the manager ahead of time to explain your situation. They may have resources available to help make your stay go more smoothly. The manager or concierge might also be able to help arrange for a caregiver to stay with your loved one while you go on outings that might not be a good fit for them.
5. Invest in a GPS tracking device.
Technology provides families with discreet but effective options for monitoring a loved one’s location. These GPS tracking devices often look like a regular sports watch. They contain wireless technology that can help you locate the user in real time. When you are traveling with someone who has memory loss, they can be a great safety investment to make.
If you decide not to take your loved one with you on vacation, respite care might be a solution to consider. Sunrise communities across the country offer these short-term services. Call the community nearest you to learn more today.