Tips for traveling with someone with dementia

Published On: July 11th, 2022Categories: Programs & Services
person packing a suitcase

Because COVID-19 restrictions have eased, more people are traveling again. A trip can bring benefits for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and those caring for them. New activities, sights, and foods can be stimulating. A getaway can restore a sense of normalcy and be a form of self-care.

But a change in routine can also be stressful for someone living with dementia, resulting in irritability and confusion. For the person with memory loss, it can be scary and difficult to reorient in a new place. And the risk for wandering increases in an unfamiliar environment. If they have wandered or gotten lost before, it may be a sign they should no longer be traveling.

Below is a short guide for traveling with someone who is living with dementia which outlines the potential benefits, best safety practices, and warning signs that the person may no longer be able to travel.

Tips for traveling with someone with dementia:

  • Travel during a time of day that the person with dementia is most alert or content. If that’s not possible, travel during off-peak times to avoid crowds.

  • Plan for rest times each day you’re traveling. A realistic itinerary should factor in that both the person with memory loss and their care partner may need more rest/recovery time than usual.

  • Pack items that will provide the person with dementia comfort or familiarity, such as pictures of loved ones, their favorite music, and tactile items.

  • Pack an extra set of clothes and incontinence items.

  • Let others know ahead of time that you are traveling with a person who has dementia. If you’re flying, contact TSA and the airline; if you’re staying at a hotel, let the staff know. As previously mentioned, wandering can happen at any time, especially if a person is feeling uncomfortable. The more people around them who are aware of this, the safer they will be.

  • Maintain your normal routine as much as possible, starting and ending the day around the same times as you would at home.

  • Take a picture of the person living with dementia each morning. If they wander, you will be able to show first responders exactly what they were wearing and what they look like.

  • Enroll in the MedicAlert national registry if you haven’t already and are traveling out of Los Angeles County. If you’re traveling within the county, be sure you’re enrolled in the LA FOUND program: https://lafound.lacounty.gov/.

  • Consider other forms of identification, such as labels sewn into clothing, wallet cards, and ID tags that attach to shoes, etc.

  • Bring a back-up of important items, like eyeglasses, in case they are lost.

  • Make sure you have important numbers saved in your cellphone, such as doctors, family/friends you can count on in an emergency, or Alzheimer’s Los Angeles 844.HELP.ALZ (844.435.7259).

  • As a care partner, don’t forget your own self-care needs, such as essential medications, comfort items, and the need for respite. Consider bringing someone else on the trip with you to share in caregiving duties to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Signs that someone living with dementia should no longer travel

At a certain point in the dementia journey, it becomes unsafe for someone with dementia to travel.

Warning signs include when the person with dementia:

  • develops a tendency to wander – this is so important to watch out for,
  • becomes overwhelmed in new places and/or around large crowds,
  • becomes fearful when the primary care partner is not around,
  • exhibits extreme changes in behavior when their normal routine is disrupted,
  • or if the care partner is unable to manage the daily needs of the person with dementia.

There is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to dementia care. While this is a general guide, we know every person’s needs and situation is unique. If you have questions about traveling with someone living with dementia, get free support from our dementia experts by calling Alzheimer’s Los Angeles at 844.HELP.ALZ (844.435.7259) or emailing info@alzla.org.

Used with permission from Alzheimer’s San Diego

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