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Taking a long trip with a relative who has dementia can be challenging, but with some planning and preparation, it can be done successfully. The key is to be prepared for every eventuality and take advantage of every service that can make the process less stressful, both for you and for your loved one.
Here are nine tips to help make the journey easier and more enjoyable for both of you.
Long Journey with Dementia: 9 Essential Tips
Book transport and accommodations well in advance. Request accessible rooms and seats near restrooms. Pack medications, comfort items, extra clothes, and non-perishable snacks. Create an itinerary with minimum stops and downtime so you don’t get delayed unnecessarily.
Get Medical Clearance
Consult your relative’s doctor to ensure they’re fit for extended travel. Adjust medications as needed and get written instructions on dosage and timing. Pack extra medications in case delays occur. Bring medical info like diagnosis, medications, allergies. If you forget anything, it could make life very difficult.
Travel with a Companion
Having an extra person allows one person to stay with the relative if needed, but it also provides companionship and assistance. If you can’t bring someone, ask the airline about using an air travel companion service or consider booking a flight nurse so your relative has professional assistance during the journey. Find out how and see what your options are.
Request Special Accommodations
When booking transport and hotels, explain your situation and request wheelchair assistance and other amenities to make travel more manageable. Airlines and transportation companies may provide early boarding, preboarding, extra assistance, or seat upgrades. This is another area where a flight nurse can help.
Prepare Essential Documents
Bring ID, insurance cards, medical info, emergency contacts, and any other vital paperwork. Make copies in case originals get lost or damaged. If you are traveling internationally, check any visa/passport requirements.
Pack Familiar, Comforting Items
Bring the person’s favorite blanket, photos, music, stuffed animal, pillow, or book. Having familiar objects can help minimize disorientation and disruptive behaviors.
Plan Engaging Activities
Pack puzzle books, playing cards, coloring books, and portable music players with favorite music downloaded. Schedule breaks to play simple games or look at memorabilia photos from past trips or vacations.
Prepare for Time Zone Changes
Adjust sleep schedules in advance if you will be traveling to a new time zone. Slowly shift routines to minimize jet lag. Upon arrival, get sunlight exposure to help reset the body clock. Melatonin supplements can also help with sleep schedule adjustments.
Stay Calm and Patient
Travel days will likely involve confusion and challenging behaviors. Respond gently with understanding. Take breaks as needed so you don’t get too stressed or tired, which will help nobody. Stay positive and keep focused on getting through each moment of the journey successfully.
With some mindfulness and preparation, long distance travel with a relative who has dementia can be manageable. Maintaining realistic expectations while ensuring health, safety and comfort is key. Build in plenty of flexibility and compassion so everyone gets to the final destination happy and safe.