Travel & Leisure

Traveling with Dementia: 6 Tips for a Smooth Trip

Traveling with a loved one with dementia can be smooth with proper planning. Follow these six tips for a stress-free journey and ensure an enjoyable trip together.

 How to Travel Smoothly with a Loved One Who Has Dementia: 6 Comprehensive Tips for a Stress-Free Journey

Traveling with a loved one who has dementia can seem incredibly daunting at first. The prospect of navigating transportation, handling medical needs, and dealing with potential confusion or wandering in an unfamiliar place is enough to make anyone hesitant to plan a trip. However, with some thoughtful preparation, planning, and adaptations, you can make your next journey a smooth and enjoyable experience for both you and your loved one. Here are six tips to make travel smooth and enjoyable when you journey with a loved one who has dementia: 

1. Research Your Transportation Options

One of the biggest decisions is how you will travel to your destination. Driving yourself is often the most flexible option, but extended drives can be difficult for someone with dementia. Consider breaking long drives into multiple days.

You may want to look into RN med flights, which provide bedside-to-bedside non-emergency medical transport for people with conditions like dementia who cannot travel alone. Licensed flight nurses accompany the passengers throughout the journey on commercial airline flights arranged by the med flight company. This reduces stress and provides medical supervision.

If you will be flying, check if your airline offers early boarding or assistance getting to the gate for passengers with disabilities. A direct flight can be easier than one with layovers.

2. Pack Smart

Pack medications, comfortable clothes, and other necessities in a carry-on bag. Checked baggage is more likely to get lost, leaving you without important items. Bringing familiar objects from home can provide comfort. Label belongings with the person’s name and your cell phone number in case they get misplaced.

Have copies of medical documents, medication lists, the diagnosis, and emergency contacts easily accessible. You may need these if you have to seek medical attention. Pack extra medications in case travel is delayed.

3. Choose Accommodating Lodging

Look for lodging that offers accessible rooms, is dementia-friendly, and has amenities you need. A suite with multiple rooms or adjoining hotel rooms can give you separate spaces. Request a quiet room away from noisy areas. Some hotels offer specialized dementia care programs.

Home rentals like Airbnb are private, often more affordable, and provide kitchens. This allows you to prepare familiar meals and snacks. Look for a rental on one level to reduce falls.

4. Plan Engaging Activities

Travel can disorient someone with dementia, leading to boredom, agitation or behavioral issues. Keep up daily routines as much as possible. Build in activities that engage their abilities and interests. Identify museums with dementia programs, gardens, historical sites or concerts. Schedule these for the times of day when they are most alert and focused.

If you will be traveling with others, take turns supervising the person so caregivers get breaks. Build in ample downtime for naps, light exercise and individualized activities. Keep a relaxed, flexible itinerary focused on their needs.

5. Prepare Caregivers and Companions

If you will be traveling with a group, educate them on the person’s needs. Demonstrate how to approach and interact with the person in helpful ways. Teach simple tips like keeping glasses and hearing aids on, using short instructions, and allowing plenty of time for tasks.

Have conversations ahead of time about what to do if the person with dementia becomes agitated or wanders off. Assign a caregiver for each part of the trip. Frequent check-ins allow you to assess if adjustments are needed.

6. Help Navigate Unfamiliar Surroundings

New environments can create disorientation and confusion. Point out landmarks and signs to provide orientation. Use verbal cues and reminders like, “Our room is on the third floor.” Request the same room on multi-night stays.

Using a buddy system prevents wandering off. Explain when you will be returning if you leave them with a companion. Provide items they can fidget with or packets of snacks to occupy their hands while waiting.

Streamline Airport Screenings and Transfers

Alert the TSA ahead of time that you are traveling with someone who has dementia. This allows them to expedite the process and get you through security quickly. Apply for TSA Cares if you might need assistance during screening.

Request wheelchair services or carts through the airport. Have meet and assist services ready at curbs so you do not need to find the car rental or hotel shuttle yourself. Minimize walking between gates by booking itineraries with the same departure terminal.

Traveling with dementia requires vigilance and adaptability, but taking steps to reduce stress can lead to a great trip. With supportive companions and services tailored to their needs, your loved one can safely enjoy new adventures. Most importantly, spend quality time together appreciating each moment.

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