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Travelling with Dementia

Travelling with Dementia

Posted on July 7, 2017 By Brendan Kildea

In our last blog, we looked at the symptoms of Dementia. Following that, people have had queries regarding travelling with a Dementia sufferer. Is it safe to travel with them? Should I avoid long distances? Should I avoid new places and rather go to recognisable destinations? What safety issues do I need to consider? These are all very valid questions, all of which will be answered in this blog. As always, if you have any questions regarding the information presented or any general feedback, we would love to hear it! You can email your feedback to nfay@irishhomecare.ie.

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of organising travel with a Dementia sufferer, we must first establish whether or not the afflicted is indeed able to travel. Dementia occurs in stages, with the early stages being manageable before the more difficult later stages. With regards travelling, you should first visit your GP or specialist. Enquire with them the stage of Dementia the sufferer is at and whether or not it is safe to travel with them. Generally speaking, the early stages are safe to travel with. As the condition progresses however, it can become more difficult for the travel companions and it can become more stressful on the sufferer themselves. In short, always seek professional medical advice before undertaking a journey with someone with Dementia.

With regards your mode of transport, you have several options:

Flying – If you are flying, you may need to inform the airline that you or your companion suffer from Dementia. When booking a flight, there is generally a section on medical needs and information required by the airline. Again, seek medical advice before booking anything! When at the airport and on the aircraft, you will have access to the following assistance:

  • Mobility Assistance (Wheelchair, mobility scooter, etc.).
  • Explanation of emergency procedures.
  • Assistance embarking and disembarking the aircraft.
  • An escort to meet you when you exit the plane to help you find your way around the airport.

Train – Many train companies offer assistance to those with special needs. Contact the train service in advance and request assistance. An escort will meet you at the train station and help you find the right train. Furthermore, in the event you have a connecting train, you can also organise assistance getting from one train to the other. Again, always seek medical advice before booking anything.

Bus – When travelling by bus, your driver should help with stowing baggage under the bus. When doing so, ensure you have all important documents (such as medical documents, emergency numbers, etc.) on your person. In the event of a Dementia sufferer experiencing an episode, you may need these documents for medical professionals who may be on the scene.

Boat/Ship – Before booking, enquire with the ferry/cruise operator about accessibility. Is the vessel safe for a Dementia sufferer to board? Do they require a companion? What are the emergency procedures? Is there an area the sufferer can rest? Again, seek professional medical advice before booking anything.

Car – When travelling by car there are several things you must check. Firstly, ensure the vehicle is road-worthy and everything is working correctly. Do not embark on a journey with the risk of a break-down. Ensure all seatbelts are properly fitted and comfortable. Listen to traffic updates so you can prepare in the event of delays. If you plan to stop at a service station, be aware that these new environments can be confusing to someone with Dementia and so they will need a constant companion in the event they become disoriented/distressed.

With regards travelling, where possible, ensure you have the following items:

  • Water
  • Medical information.
  • Emergency contact information.
  • Snacks
  • Activities (crosswords, puzzles, handheld game console, etc.).

At this stage, you may be wondering what destinations would be suitable for someone suffering from Dementia. As memory tends to be effected, bringing them somewhere familiar can be a great benefit. A holiday they went on as a child? A return to where they had their honeymoon? Going somewhere they went before Dementia set in? These are all great options. It is sure to bring fond memories and joy to that person.

With regards new destinations, it can be traumatic. The sufferer may become disorientated and/or begin to wander. This presents many risks and so the utmost care should be taken if you are thinking of travelling somewhere new. Research everything about where you are going, including local hazards (such as a nearby construction site) areas to avoid.

In conclusion, people suffering from Dementia are just as entitled to a holiday as everyone else. However, we need to be more mindful of our surroundings and ensure we have all the necessary equipment, documents and medication. Before booking a holiday, consult a medical professional and have them examine the Dementia sufferer. Also, please note that this is not a definitive guide on travelling with Dementia sufferers. It is merely designed to give you a sense of what to keep in mind and prepare accordingly. For further information on travelling with those afflicted by Dementia, visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20030/staying_independent/26/holidays_and_travelling/3 or  http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-and-traveling.asp. We hope this blog has helped you somehow and again, would love some of your feedback.