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Travel Guidelines for
People with Memory Disorders
By Geri Richards Hall, PhD, ARNP, CNS, FAAN
- Are not able or willing to make significant
adaptations during the trip—often at a moment's
notice—to meet their loved one's changing needs,
including canceling the travel mid-trip.
- Don't think they want to take the trip but will
do it for their loved one
- Think there will be no change in their loved
one's behavior during the trip
- Are not willing to plan well in advance
- Resist seeking help as needed, thinking they can
manage on their own
- Think that trips to familiar places (such as an
adult child's home or cabin) will be 'just like it
used to be' because it's 'familiar and fun.'
While travel may be enjoyable, getting to your
destination is generally not relaxing. The following are
principles to consider when planning the trip:
- The process of 'getting there' should be as
short and simple as possible.
- Plan a trip that involves as few changes as
- Trips should be to a single destination, rather
than a series of visits. For example, you would want
to travel to a wedding and home, but not take three
months stopping at friends' homes along the way.
- Stick with the familiar. Vacation in ways your
loved one was accustomed to before the onset of the
- Consider a shorter trip. Day or weekend trips
may be a better alternative, particularly if you are
unsure of your loved one's reaction to travel. If
everything goes well, go for a longer visit.
- If your loved one has not traveled in six
months, schedule a 'trial' overnight stay nearby
home to see if your loved one can still tolerate
- Gather necessary papers and documents, including
insurance cards, passports, physician's phone
number, medication refills, and the care receiver's
medical record. Do not expect your loved one to
carry these documents or tickets.
- Rest periods should be built into the travel
schedule. Planning too many activities, such as
meals in a restaurant, can lead to late night
confusion or agitation. Do not plan activities for
the night you arrive.
- Save travel for your loved one's best time of
- Use services specifically designated for people
Spend as little time as possible in areas with large
groups of more than 20 people, loud noises, or lots
of activity (for example, airport gate areas).
- Avoid busy places and situations that will cause
anxiety for your loved one.
- Never expect the person with dementia to travel
alone. Do not expect travel employees (flight
attendants, gate personnel) to care for or supervise
your loved one. Always have the care receiver carry
- Expect your loved one to become more confused,
agitated, or behaviorally difficult during the trip.
Assist with menus and choices.
- Do not expect other members of a tour to
volunteer or be agreeable if you need help with your