Holiday travel can be hectic for us all, but it is especially challenging for families impacted by Alzheimer’s. For these families, even short trips during the holidays can be stressful and disorienting.
There are more than 410,000 people in New York living with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. Though not all are able to travel, many with early- and mid-stage Alzheimer’s often do want to attend family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Careful and thoughtful planning can help ensure safety, comfort and joy for everyone involved.
When planning holiday travel, consider these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to provide the best possible experience for loved ones with Alzheimer’s:
• Evaluate modes of travel: Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety. If the destination requires air travel, the Alzheimer’s Association provides tips on alz.org.
• Pick a practical destination: Consider everyone’s needs and desires as you plan your trip and discuss the plan with the person living with dementia. Elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours may cause anxiety and confusion. And consider destinations that have easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies.
• Simplify your travel itinerary: Try not to overload the person with a lot of directions or too much information. Carry emergency contact information, travel during the time of day best for the person with Alzheimer’s, and don’t over-schedule.
• Keep travel necessities close: If traveling by air, keep necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important documents in your carry-on baggage. For longer car trips, make sure to have plenty of water and snacks.
• Brief your host: If you are staying with family or friends, make sure everyone knows what to expect. If you will be staying in a hotel, consider informing the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
• Be prepared: Environmental changes or new locations can cause anxiety and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. These events can also trigger wandering. Monitor your loved one closely for signs of stress or confusion. Keep them close to you in crowded, unfamiliar places.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy their holidays, including people living with dementia,” said Amanda Nobrega, interim executive director for the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Planning ahead can reduce stress and confusion and provide a joyous time for all.”
More travel tips can be found by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website. The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline also provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call the helpline toll-free anytime, even holidays, at 1.800.272.3900.