With the Holiday Season upon us many families who have a family member with Dementia are wondering whether they will be able to share the joy of the holidays together. Traveling safely with Dementia requires planning, but it is not necessary to stop participating in such meaningful family events. Plan ahead and ensure that your loved one is properly prepared and equipped to travel safely.
Prior planning should certainly include a trip to the doctor to discuss the travel plans. During this visit make certain that you have up to date refills on all prescriptions and provide enough medications in the event of a travel delay. Keep in mind that prescription refills may not be available at your destination. Then consider the mode of transportation, taking into account not only the level of Dementia but individual needs and preferences and safety and comfort. It would not be a wise choice to include travel on connecting flights unless the person is accompanied by a travel companion. If traveling by air, make certain that the airline is aware of your specific needs at least 48 hours in advance. Wheelchairs and personal assistance are available but book these services when making the reservation. Give copies of the travel itinerary to as many family members as possible. Everyone should be informed of every change when and if it occurs. Avoid staying in a hotel as it will only create confusion and frustration. If this cannot be avoided, then discuss with the hotel staff the special needs that may be required for a comfortable and safe stay. Unfamiliar surroundings may cause wandering. Be certain that the proper ID is present if you should become separated. If possible travel during the daylight hours as the evening onset increases confusion and agitation.
Once you have arrived at your destination, make certain that you acquaint yourself and your loved one with the new surroundings. Do not assume that they are familiar with the area even though they may have visited countless times previously. Keep schedules simple and allow for adequate rest and relaxation between events.
Although traveling requires many specific challenges, do not forget the everyday adjustments for someone with Dementia: do not move too quickly or give too many complicated instructions or directions. Stay positive, do not scold or reprimand; distract and change the subject. If behavior warrants, do not attempt to restrain. A better way is to step back and monitor your loved one until he/she calms down.
Holidays can prove to be challenging for everyone. Plan ahead, take simple precautions and you can enjoy another joyous Holiday Season with family and friends.
If you are a caregiver and would like to learn more about home care services, please visit the website of the Coalition on Family Caregiving at www.cfcares.org. The Coalition on Family Caregiving, formed in 2003, is a group of community-based organizations, businesses and individuals whose mission is to assist family caregivers by offering support, education and information on resources and services.