Seniors with dementia often have a difficult time adjusting to change. As a result, going on a trip with them by car, train, or plane presents unique challenges that can raise your stress level to the breaking point. These travel-related challenges can usually be managed more easily in the early stages of the disease, as your loved one is less likely to become agitated, distressed, or disoriented. During the latter phases, even short trips can become nearly impossible. These tips should make traveling with someone who has dementia more enjoyable for all parties involved.  

Traveling Challenges for Dementia Caregivers

Unfamiliar environments, new people, change in routine, time zone changes, noise, and fatigue can all be overwhelming for someone with dementia. People with psychological changes brought on by dementia, like paranoia or delusions, will have a lot of difficulties when traveling. Wandering is another common behavior exhibited by those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

As an informal caregiver, coping with all those challenges takes a lot of planning and perseverance. Inexperienced caregivers should also be honest about how prepared they are to travel with someone with dementia. Knowing how to manage unexpected events and behaviors while traveling must also be a priority, especially when out in public.

Pointers when Traveling Long Distances

Notably, when planning a long trip with your loved one, take these steps:

Pack important documents

Be sure to bring along copies of these important documents and information:

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency contact information
  • Doctors’ names and contact information
  • List of current medications, and any drug and food allergies
  • Insurance information
  • Copies of legal papers (living will, power of attorney, advanced directives, etc.)
  • Travel itinerary

Bring an emergency kit

When traveling long distances, pack a watertight bag with these emergency items:

  • Extra clothing for you both
  • A recent picture of the person with dementia
  • Extra medication
  • Non-perishable food
  • First aid kit
  • Incontinence products, as needed
  • Bottled water

Don’t forget ID

Have your loved one carry or wear identification, such as a medical ID bracelet. Make sure that their wallet or purse contains information like important phone numbers, any medical conditions, and their full name. For added peace of mind, label their clothes with their name.

Go on a trial run

If this is your first trip since your loved one was diagnosed with dementia, or if their care needs have changed significantly since traveling last, do a trial run first. While using the same mode of transportation planned for the longer trip, practice a shorter one, as doing so will give you a sense of the person’s ability to travel. If the trial run doesn’t go as planned, consider other alternatives.

Additional travel tips

Always try to travel to familiar, stable, and well-structured settings, and to make the trip there as short and simple as possible. In addition, here are some other tips while traveling with someone who has dementia:

  • Allow plenty of extra time for all activities.
  • Build flexibility into your travel plans, as doing so gives the person time to adjust and rest.
  • Never drive alone with someone who is agitated.
  • Take regular rest breaks.
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