Is it safe to take someone with dementia traveling? It’s a question without a simple answer. It depends on a number of factors.
Someone in the early stages of dementia may still enjoy traveling, but as the disease progresses it often becomes overwhelming for them.
Some types of travel may be more difficult than others. Traveling by plane can be chaotic and unpredictable, whereas a short trip by car may be much more manageable.
Timing can be another factor. As a rule, long trips are going to be more taxing than shorter ones. (Isn’t that true for all of us?) And trips later in the day may be too much for someone who experiences sundowning.
You get the picture.
How to determine whether it’s safe to travel
So, how do you determine whether it’s safe to travel with someone you know who has dementia?
Well, you can start by taking an honest look at how they respond to situations outside their daily routine. Do they become easily anxious or agitated? Are they easily confused when removed from their normal surroundings? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you may want to ask yourself whether the trip is worth it.
Is this dementia?Learn more about the changes you’re noticing and what you can do about them in this short 4-minute questionnaire.
Planning your trip
But if you think that they’ll be okay or that any overwhelm they might experience will probably be manageable, you still need to be ready with a plan in case things don’t go as smoothly as you hope. Here are some ways you can prepare:
- Keep the itinerary simple. Making lots of stops or going on elaborate tours may be too much. Don’t schedule too much. Allow time for rest and unanticipated complications. Stay flexible.
- Give yourself plenty of lead time to get to where you’re going. Hurrying can cause someone with dementia to feel anxious and overwhelmed.
- Pack essentials like snacks, drinks, medications, and an emergency change of clothes if necessary.
- Guard against the person wandering off. Even people in the early stages of dementia who have never wandered before may become disoriented and go missing. Have someone with them at all times. Learn what to do if they do go missing.
- If you’re visiting a hotel, let staff know at the time of booking that you’re traveling with someone with dementia so that they’ll be prepared to help.
- If you’re visiting friends or family, try to stick to normal routines as much as possible (e.g. mealtimes, bedtime). Avoid trips to crowded and noisy places like restaurants and shopping malls that might be too overwhelming.
- Always have a backup plan. Be prepared to cancel. Figure out ahead of time who you can call in case of emergency, whether that’s friends, family, or emergency services in the area you’re traveling to.
At Sinceri, we provide support for people with dementia and their families every day. If you’re considering relocating a relative with dementia (perhaps because travel has become a problem for them), our handy guide helps you understand whether moving to a community that provides memory care might be right for them. Find a Sinceri assisted living and memory care community near you here, and contact us to schedule a tour. Download our free guide, Just the Facts: Memory Care, to learn more about Sinceri’s memory care communities.