Summertime is vacation time in Michigan. If you are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, however, you may think a trip that includes your loved one is impossible. While Alzheimer’s patients often become agitated by changes in their daily routine, many can successfully travel if their caregivers plan ahead and take precautions.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that you evaluate your loved one’s ability to travel based on their needs and the progression of the disease. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s will be less likely to become distressed than those in the later stages of the disease.
Tips for Traveling with a Senior Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease
If you decide that your senior can safely accompany you on a trip, these tips can help make the excursion enjoyable for all:
Put Your Loved One First: Choose the method of transportation, route and accommodations that will cause your loved one the least amount of stress and anxiety, even if it means more inconvenience and cost to you. Avoid peak travel times and holidays. When flying, choose a direct flight whenever possible. When you must change planes, try to purchase tickets with at least an hour between flights. This will prevent a frenzied rush to board the next plane.
Be Prepared: Medications, snacks and drinks, and a change of clothing should be accessible at all times. A list of prescription information, doctor phone numbers and emergency contacts should be handy, as well. Carry your senior loved one’s insurance card, identification and copies of legal documents. A recent photo can help locate them if they should wander off. There are several cell phone apps that make this easier including CareZone and Unfrazzle.
Plan a Reasonable Itinerary: You might be able to hop from museum to museum or spend the day at an amusement park, but people with dementia can be easily overwhelmed and distressed by days packed with fast-paced activities. Limit the number of activities you do each day. Slowing down and relaxing more can be good for everyone!
Use the Buddy System: Always keep your loved one under direct supervision. Unfamiliar environments increase the likelihood that someone with dementia will wander. If you stay in a hotel, use all the interior door locks to make it more difficult for your loved one to open the door when you are sleeping or showering. You may want to invest in a door alarm or a Medic-Alert necklace or bracelet that would help reunite you in the event they slip out of your sight.
Do Your Research: Before you leave, locate the hospital and urgent care centers nearest your destination. Investigate road construction and detours that might cause stressful delays. You might also contact the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to identify any resources you might need to utilize when you arrive.
Have a Plan B: Have an alternative plan or two in place, just in case your loved one doesn’t respond well to being away from home. This might mean making more frequent rest-stops or checking into a hotel sooner.
Consider Respite Care Services
If your senior with Alzheimer’s cannot travel along with you, consider respite care . Call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you to learn more about a short term stay at one of our Michigan communities. While there really is no vacation from caregiving, thoughtful planning can make a summer trip pleasant for all.