With the summer months upon us at last, many of us look forward to making vacation plans to visit family, friends or a favourite destination. If you are a caregiver of someone with dementia, you may find that the idea of traveling presents some challenges. However, there is no reason to give up traveling altogether. There are a number of things you can do to make a summer trip successful for yourself and your loved one.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning to travel this summer:
- Keep daily routines (eating, sleeping times) as close to normal as possible.
- Arrange for your loved one to wear wandering identification.
- Be aware of the location of public washrooms ahead of time.
- Plan your itinerary ahead of time as much as possible.
- If you are visiting family or friends, make them aware of any dementia-related changes since your last visit.
- Minimize noise and crowded situations. If visiting others, plan a number of small group visits rather than one large gathering.
- If flying, avoid layovers and arrange for direct flights only.
- Carry your loved one’s travel documents and ID with you.
- Inform flight staff that you are traveling with someone who has dementia, as most airlines will accommodate special needs, such as by providing wheelchairs if needed and offering priority boarding.
- If driving, make frequent stops to help decrease agitation.
- If staying in a hotel, ask the staff for a door alarm, if available, or bring a doorknob cover. Avoid booking a room with sliding glass doors.
- Keep a copy of the hotel address in your loved one’s purse or pocket so they can get assistance from others if needed.
- Keep a bag of essentials with you at all times, including medications; a recent photo of your loved one; a comfortable change of clothing; extra incontinent products; water; snacks and travel-sized games/activities.
- Provide a copy of your itinerary and contact information to your friends or family back at home.
- Keep a cell phone with you at all times, in case of an emergency.
- Travel at the best time of day for your loved one. For example, mornings may be a better time than later afternoons, when anxiety and agitation can increase.
- Control access to your car keys.
But most of all, remember to enjoy your trip and keep a sense of humour! Keep in mind that documenting your experiences with photos and other reminders will provide a wonderful way to share and reminisce together when you arrive back home.
Submitted by McCormick Dementia Services Nursing Staff