If you are considering a trip with your loved one this summer, do yourself a favor and reflect on the realities of travel when a person has dementia. The disease is likely to be a prominent third guest in your plans, requiring consideration every step of the way. The disruption may make this less of a “vacation” than you had hoped. Changes to routine and not having the usual resources at the ready could prompt upsetting behaviors from your loved one, resulting in greater stress for you.
Consider these questions before buying your tickets:
- Does your relative get easily agitated, disoriented, or wander? If these problems occur at home, they are likely to be worse when traveling.
- How does your loved one do with day trips? How long can they stay seated and belted in? Are they easily distressed in new places? In crowds? Do you know strategies to help soothe them when not at home?
- Has the doctor signed off on the trip? Any reservations or concerns?
- What is the best mode of transportation? A car allows more flexibility for start and stop. A train relieves you of driving, but is public, slower, and difficult if your relative has balance issues. It’s also potentially overstimulating for a person with dementia. Likewise, airports can be distressing, but the airlines have some services to help.
- Can you provide a home base at your destination? Can you retain many of your daily routines, simply in a new location? Will there be a quiet room where you are staying? A hotel room away from the hubbub of kids might be an important refuge.
- Are your plans flexible? If your loved one is having a bad day, can you sit the activities out? Can you build in a gap day between arrival and big events?
- Who is the trip for? You? Your loved one? Friends or family at your destination? Especially if it’s been a while since you traveled together, it could be that the disease has progressed to a point that merits significant reevaluation. Honestly ask yourself, “Is this trip realistic?” Might you be better off planning for someone to stay with your loved one so you can go off on your own? Perhaps it’s better for family to come visit you. Be open to alternate possibilities.