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Travel Guidelines for People with Memory Disorders
By Geri Richards Hall, PhD, ARNP, CNS, FAAN

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  • 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.'

The Trip
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 possible.
  • 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 disease.
  • 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 travel.
  • 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 day.
  • Use services specifically designated for people with disabilities.
    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 identification.
  • 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 loved one.


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