Alzheimer's Q&A: How can I assure safe travel and vacation for my parents, who have dementia?


Traveling with someone with dementia can be somewhat challenging, but planning well in advance can ease the struggles.

The No. 1 consideration is safety. Traveling to unfamiliar places and veering off a regular routine can promote wandering behaviors and anxiety. It would be a good idea to make sure your parents are registered in a safe return program, such as Safe Return/MedicAlert, or other devices for wandering. The registration process usually takes 4-6 weeks, so this process should be completed well in advance of your travel date.

Bring important documents, such as your parent’s medical records, including insurance information, a list of current medications and physician information. Some caregivers find it useful to carry a business card-sized note card identifying that they are a caregiver accompanying someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. This allows the service industry personnel to be aware of the affected individual, keeping his/her dignity intact.

Also, leave your itinerary for your trip with family and friends and keep a copy with you all the time so it is easily accessible.

Because your parents might get uncomfortable and disoriented in unfamiliar surroundings, take along something familiar to them, such as a favorite pillow or blanket or even a treasured photograph. Try as much as possible to mimic their routine, which could help avoid a lot of anxiety for them.

If traveling by air, try to schedule direct flights that are no longer than four hours. The same goes for traveling by car. If your trip is going to take longer than four hours, it’s advised to have another caregiver assist you.

Keep in mind that people with dementia need extra time to feel comfortable in their surroundings, so patience is a must, especially in travel and vacations.

If your travels take you to visit relatives, it’s probably best to stay in a nearby hotel to give your parents a calm place to go when the trip and/or visits become too hectic or overwhelming. A hotel stay can also maintain that familiar routine for them.

Additionally, relatives might be unaware of your parent’s progression with dementia and not know what to expect or how to act, which can make everyone nervous and the visit unpleasant.

If you notice traveling causes one or both of your parents to escalate behaviors, show physical or verbal aggression, cause their medical condition to become unstable or if they are at a high risk of falling, you may want to consider a stay-at-home vacation and find things to do locally. 


Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area at advice@alzbr.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.



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