Holiday travel may seem impossible when you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, the right planning can make a holiday trip not only possible, but safe and joyful, too.
6 Tips for Traveling with a Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s
Thoughtful planning helps to reduce anxiety
Increased anxiety is common when a senior has Alzheimer’s disease, especially when they are out of their own environment. Here are a few steps you can take to help reduce your loved one’s anxiety:
Choose a familiar destination or familiar people.
Plan to travel during your loved one’s best times of day and avoid disrupting their routine as much as possible (e.g., if they always take a rest break at 3:00, plan to arrive at your destination by that time).
Choose a form of transportation that will create the least anxiety. For many adults with Alzheimer’s, car travel is less stressful.
If you are flying, avoid tight connections. Also allow yourself plenty of time for security checkpoints.
Stay with your loved one at all times. Getting separated in an unfamiliar location can be especially dangerous.
Pack for safety and comfort
Planning for comfort and safety is also important when you are traveling with someone who has memory loss:
- Keep an “essentials” kit with you. This may include basic toiletries, a change of clothes, and any medications your loved one needs.
Pack important documents, including medication and allergy information, doctors’ information, or emergency contacts. Also, bring copies of insurance information and legal documents, such as power of attorney or living will.
Bring items to help reduce your loved one’s anxiety. Familiar photographs or their own pillow can be comforting, as well as favorite snacks or noise-canceling headphones. Try to limit carry-on items if traveling by air. You won’t have to worry about carrying or watching lots of bags while caring for your loved one.
Share a detailed itinerary with emergency contacts
Make certain other loved ones know your travel plans:
If driving, provide your travel route and vehicle information.
If flying, share your flight numbers and all departure, connection, and arrival times.
Let your emergency contact know where you will be staying, with whom, and for how long.
Ask travel staff for assistance
Ask for and accept help while you are traveling:
Inform hotel staff ahead of time that you are traveling with a senior who has Alzheimer’s. Let them know you may need special accommodations.
At airports, you can request a wheelchair to keep your loved one from getting too tired, even if he or she can walk.
Flight attendants are trained to make air travel more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.
Bring another traveler along, if possible
For longer trips, having a second traveler with you will help. You can both take turns helping your aging family member, watching the luggage at the airport, or driving during a lengthy road trip.
Invest in a GPS watch or ID bracelet
Newer technology has made it easier to track a senior who wanders in real time. These GPS devices work off of cellular technology but are discrete. Most look like a sports watch. This technology is a bit expensive and usually requires a monthly service fee.
You can also purchase an ID bracelet with emergency contact information in case your loved one does wander off. For example, the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return® program provides 24/7 emergency assistance. While it doesn’t offer real-time tracking, the program does make it easier to mobilize local first responders and get the search for a senior started.
Travel can be stressful for everyone during the holiday season. As a caregiver, you can make the experience easier for yourself and your loved one by following these tips.
Memory Care at Randall Residence
If you are finding it increasingly difficult to keep a family member with Alzheimer’s safe at home, a local memory care program might be the solution. Randall Residence of McHenry offers memory care programs that help your senior loved one live their best quality of life despite the disease.
Contact us today to learn more about memory care at Randall Residence!