Where are we going? Are we there yet? And where are we going? Traveling with someone with memory loss is often necessary, sometimes voluntary, periodically stressful, but almost always worth it to have the whole family together during the holidays. However, before you hit the road or runway, some special prepping for safe and pleasant travels is in order.
“Carefully considering your loved one’s routines, fears, triggers, and health and safety concerns will help you arrive at your destination with your holiday spirit intact,” says Jessica Smith, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Wildwood, a new Memory Care community in Wildwood, Florida.
In this post, we’ll explore some tips for traveling with your loved one living with mild memory loss to determine whether it is a good idea and how to do so safely.
7 TRAVEL TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS
- Determine If Travel Is Possible and Safe
As much as you’d like to take a vacation or take your loved one to see other family members, defer to whether your loved one is physically and emotionally up for it.
- How advanced is their memory loss? Do they become anxious or easily overwhelmed? Do they exhibit challenging behaviors such as aggression or paranoia? Are they a fall risk or experiencing frequent incontinence? How do they usually handle car rides or being away from home for periods of time? If it’s a struggle to take them shopping or to visit a friend for a few hours, or if they thrive on structure and the familiar, you may reconsider taking your loved one on a multi-day trip full of unfamiliar places and faces. Instead, check out short-term vacation stays at your local memory care communities. Short-term programs can keep your loved one safe, well-fed, well-cared for, and entertained while you enjoy some time away.
- If your loved one has early-to-mid stage dementia and is able to travel, make sure it’s also safe for them to do so, especially in 2020. As an at-risk demographic for more serious COVID-19 infections, seniors with dementia and their families have a few specific CDC recommendations to consider.
- Some CDC warnings for those living with dementia include the fact that symptoms of dementia progression are similar to common COVID-19 manifestations in the elderly. Seniors with memory loss also might wander away from caregivers, potentially getting too close to infected individuals. If you or your loved one do experience any symptoms, the CDC also has a Self-Checker to help you decide when to get tested and seek medical care.
- Create a Manageable Itinerary
- Inform your loved one of your plans to travel. Go over your proposed itinerary with them and ask if they have any questions or concerns you may need to consider.
- Does your loved one experience sundowning? Do they hate mornings? Lessen their anxiety by planning your busiest travel times for when your loved one is feeling their best.
- Plan for breaks. Travel can wear out – and stress out – the best of us. Be realistic about your limitations and those of your loved one; be aware of mood shifts, increased irritability and other signs that your loved one needs a break. When planning your day, consider when your loved one usually rests at home and build in breaks near those times. Ensure there is enough time between flights or planned activities to allow for downtime, meals and restroom breaks.
- Maintain your loved one’s routines. This isn’t always convenient, but the success of your trip might depend on it. Routines can provide comfort and much-needed security for people with memory loss, helping to reduce their agitation, confusion, restlessness, and anxiety – which helps reduce everyone else’s agitation and anxiety, too. Along with coordinating your breaks, plan to keep mealtimes close to their regular schedules and maintain bedtime rituals. If they enjoy a specific activity every day, take it or a similar activity to give to your loved one at their usual times during your trip.
- If driving, make sure there are plenty of rest areas and restaurants along your route and that your destination is not so remote that you won’t have access to a pharmacy or immediate medical care if needed.
- Keep a copy of your itinerary on you, with your loved one, and with other family members or friends whom you’ll be visiting, so everyone knows where you should be and when.
- Ask About Special Accommodations
- Notify the staff about your family’s specific needs ahead of time so they can prepare to assist. They may have a room available on the quiet side of the building or one with an extra-large or walk-in shower to make bathing easier.
- Inform the night staff if your loved one is prone to wandering. Consider leaving a recent photo of your loved one at the front desk.
- You can also use a travel security lock or alarm to keep your loved one safe inside your room.
- Consider calling your airline several days in advance to reserve a wheelchair. It will prevent your loved one from wandering or tiring, and an attendant can expedite a safe journey to and from your gates.
- When booking your tickets, request bulkhead seating for more room or an aisle seat close to the restroom, if that is a priority for your loved one. You can also skip the lines if your loved one needs assistance boarding.
- Request TLC. Discreetly inform the TSA checkpoint agent and flight crew that your loved one has dementia and advise them of any relevant triggers they should know about (e.g., a dislike of being touched, loud noises, or confined spaces).
- Don’t Leave Home Without:
A Few of Your Loved One’s Favorite Things...
Load up your tablet with music playlists or episodes of your loved one’s favorite TV show, pack travel activities to keep your loved one’s hands and mind occupied, and don’t forget the snacks! Keep all of these, plus a comforting item from home, water, hand sanitizer, and masks handy.
...And These Important Items
- Pre-sorted medications to cover the duration of the trip plus a few days
- Doctors’ contact information
- List of medications and dosages
- Local emergency department numbers
- List of allergies to foods and medications
- Emergency contact number
- Copies of legal papers, such as power of attorney, living will, advance directives
- Medical insurance information
- More snacks
- Outfit Your Loved One with a Wearable Tracker or ID Bracelet
- Today, peace of mind can be tucked inside a watch, a fob – and even a shoe insert – when traveling with someone with dementia. These inconspicuous personal tracking devices will transmit your loved one’s location and other information directly to your smartphone.
- An ID bracelet can also reunite you with a wandering loved one. Make sure to inscribe their name, your contact information, and a notification that your loved one has dementia. This will help people who come to their aid better understand your loved one’s confusion or agitation.
- Take Daily Pictures of Your Loved One
- Use your phone’s camera to snap a full-length photo of your loved one after each clothing change during your trip. If you get separated at an airport, hotel, gas station, etc., giving security or police an accurate picture of what your loved one looks like at that moment – complete with clothing description – will increase the chances of your loved one being spotted quickly.
- Most Importantly – Involve Your Loved One in Your Family’s Plans
- Before making any detours or embarking on a new leg of your journey – a plane change, a hotel or restaurant stop – explain what’s happening, where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing.
- Amid the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to make personal connections with your loved one. Hold their hand, involve them in conversations about your vacation, and reassure them that this trip is for them to enjoy, too. Then show them that you mean it.
- Ask your loved one to choose where you’ll stop for dinner or which hotel you’ll stay in for the night. Make time for a roadside attraction that will interest them. If they swim at home, make sure to pack your suits and accompany them to the hotel pool.
- Remember, if your loved one feels like they’re being pulled along for the ride, they’ll have about as much fun as your luggage – and be a lot harder to move. Keeping them in the loop and respecting their input will go a long way to getting them on board for a safe, fun trip.
For more ways to support and engage your loved one with mild memory loss, call our dementia care experts at YourLife™ of Wildwood today at 352-433-0942.
Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Wildwood provides the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. In fact, we were created with that one purpose in mind. Each day, we focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating an environment that caters to each resident’s personal needs, choices and individuality, while ensuring unequaled peace of mind and dedicated support for families.
At YourLife™ of Wildwood, we have the ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents thanks to our sole focus on Memory Care. We understand that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that help to enhance and support each person’s independence while enriching their days. To ensure further peace of mind, our team of YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.
With our signature YourStory programming, we not only personalize Memory Care, but we are able to create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and wellness programming to scheduled outings and other special events, to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Wildwood, our residents and their families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 352-433-0942 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.