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Traveling with a Dementia Patient
Mar 30, 2018 by Toni Reinhart
Whether for a summer getaway or a visit with family for the holidays, dementia patients and especially their caregivers may wish to do a little traveling from time to time. However, traveling with someone with dementia can present unique challenges for caregivers. It calls for some strategic planning and preparation.
If you're a caregiver, here are some helpful tips to make going out of town less stressful for yourself as well as the spouse, parent, or other loved one who is under your care.
Create a Comforting Environment
Limit Travel Time
During the actual travel to and from your destination, the person with dementia may become agitated, bored, or disoriented. That's why it's important not to spend too much time in the car or airplane at one time. For a single caregiver, approximately four hours would be a realistic maximum travel timeframe. It's also a good idea to keep any layovers or connecting flights to an absolute minimum or avoid them altogether if possible. Find out if your airline offers medical pre-boarding and try to arrange for yourself and your loved one to take advantage of this opportunity.
Provide Calming Space
Because traveling is stressful for patients, it helps to have a private, quiet space for them to go to when they reach their destination. Rather than staying in a busy home that's crowded with relatives who may not know the best way to interact with them, choose to arrange for hotel accommodations if at all possible so they can avoid over-stimulation. Make sure that if they do stay at a hotel, you're there to carefully supervise the patient at all times so they don't accidentally wander away.
Maintain Their Routine
One of the most potentially challenging aspects of travel for them will be the disorientation of being removed from their home environment. As a caregiver, you can try to recreate the look and feel of their familiar everyday surroundings by bringing a few special objects they're used to seeing around the house. These could be items like a favorite picture, stuffed animal, blanket, or clothing.
Create a Safe Environment
Make Sure They Wear an Identification Bracelet
As difficult as it is to contemplate, people with dementia sometimes do wander off when they're away from their home environments. That's why it is absolutely crucial for you to keep an ID bracelet securely fastened to their wrist at all times throughout your trip. It's actually a great idea to have them wear the ID bracelet all the time at home, too, because they could wander off even from their own home. This ID bracelet should clearly state the person’s name, medical condition, and a cell phone number where you can be reached. Be sure to regularly charge your cell phone and keep it with you in case of such an emergency.
Keep Medications and Insurance Cards with You
It's extremely important to carry their medications with you on your trip. You should also bring their medical insurance cards, a detailed travel itinerary, their doctor's phone numbers, and medical care instructions. Bring along any other information you can think of that would be pertinent to their care. Make sure these documents stay with you if you're taking a flight by keeping them in your purse or carry-on luggage. I take a photo of all my documents and keep them in my phone with me.
Set Up Emergency Plans
It's always possible that either you or your loved one may need emergency care at some point during your trip. In the rare event that something should happen to you, have a backup plan in place for the person in your care. Get an emergency care team of friends or relatives lined up to help you. Give them a detailed travel itinerary, a complete list of the person’s medications and allergy information, phone numbers for healthcare providers, and specific directions of how to care for them if you're unable to fulfill your caregiver duties.
Consider Medical Transportation
Once a person’s condition reaches the more advanced stages of the disease, traveling may grow to be too difficult for a caregiver to handle on their own. If this happens, you need to accept the reality of the situation and seek out help. You may have to eliminate travel altogether during this time period. If for some reason, you find that you have to travel with them, it may be necessary to seek out a medical transportation team to safely take them to and from your travel destination.
Being prepared is vital when it comes to traveling with your loved one who is suffering from this debilitating condition. With some careful planning, you can cut down on stress and anxiety. Following this advice could help both yourself and your loved one feel more relaxed.
We’re here to help 24/7. Give us a call at (703) 424-9519 or stop by at 459 Herndon Pkwy #5, Herndon, VA 20170.
Comfort Keepers Herndon is a full-service, in-home care provider for the elderly - helping to keep your loved ones at home longer for better quality of life.