How to Prepare for Summer Travel With Someone With Dementia

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by Ray Burow |

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This summer, 208 million American adults plan to travel. Some of those folks are probably caregivers, brave souls, traveling with loved ones with cognitive issues.

Taking along a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia requires extensive planning. If you’re contemplating a summer road trip or air travel with someone diagnosed with cognitive issues, the following tips may help.

Is it a good idea?

Before booking an airline or planning a road trip, take an honest assessment of your situation. Is the idea realistic? Your loved one’s level of cognitive decline or stage of Alzheimer’s disease determines that.

Barring exceptions to a rule, traveling with an Alzheimer’s patient in the late stages of the disease is impossible. However, a trip together is doable if your loved one is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and is in good health and cleared to travel by their physician.

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Mode of travel

Rather than flying or traveling by train, driving provides a measure of control. It removes the complexities of layovers and delays, which can confuse someone with dementia.

Carefully choose how to travel, remembering that your loved one must have an official photo identification to fly or to travel by train or bus. This can be an issue for elders who no longer drive or those with expired identification. Check with the local Department of Motor Vehicles to learn what documents are required to secure a new ID.

A trip to the DMV is challenging for someone with cognitive issues, so you don’t want to be asked to return for lack of the correct proof of residence or other information. Some states have mobile DMV units that provide convenient access for seniors. Contact the local DMV for one in your area.

In addition to identification, don’t leave home without proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, just in case it’s required during your trip.

You made the decision. Now what?

You take caregiving on the road when vacationing with someone with dementia, so plan accordingly.

  • If you decide to travel by air, book direct flights, if possible.
  • Incorporate breaks for meals, bathrooms, and stretching when driving.
  • If a drive requires multiple days, secure hotel rooms before leaving home.
  • Prepare for the unexpected and purchase travel insurance when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars.

Caregiving essentials for traveling

You’ll need the same basic caregiving essentials on vacation that you do at home. Pack incontinence pads and adult diapers. Super absorbent diapers or those designed for overnight are excellent choices for long trips. Also include the following items:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Absorbent disinfectant wipes
  • Easy on-and-off shoes to wear in the car
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Bottled water to stay hydrated
  • Healthy snacks
  • Roll of paper towels or extra napkins for the glove compartment
  • Audiobook or an activity/puzzle book to occupy your loved one
  • Bug spray
  • Sun hat and sunburn protection
  • COVID-19 mask
  • A battery-operated alarm to sound if your loved one attempts to wander from unfamiliar surroundings

Traveling with someone with dementia is not the easiest experience, but a brief vacation or road trip with an aged parent or spouse in the early stages of Alzheimer’s could be the last you’ll have together.

Proceed with caution, practice patience, and embrace the memories.

Happy summer!

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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