Taking Dementia Along for the Ride

Traveling with Lyn has been a little challenging since her Sundowner's diagnosis a few years ago.  This summer's travel events gave us a hint that it is just going to get more challenging.

When you live your life trying to maintain a person's environment and schedule specifically minimize their change related anxiety, travel puts a wrench in the normal, mechanical flow of things.  The person is not in their recognized and secure feeling environment.  The person is out of their routine.  Because the person with dementia may no longer remember places that were once familiar, they may respond to a previously frequently visited place as though it was their first visit.

While we may consider the impact to the person with dementia, we may forget to factor in the impact to the care giver(s).  If the person with dementia is out of his or her environment, what will the impact be to the care giver?  Will the care giver have the means to minimize the amount of travel time?  Will the care giver have to deal with spontaneous emotional outbursts, wandering, resistance, or even physical outbursts from the person with dementia?  Will the care giver be able to get a night's sleep or will they have to stay awake to keep their charge from wandering off?

As a result of the complexities associated with traveling when dementia is along for the ride, there comes a time when travel is not recommended for the person who has dementia because it is so disruptive to the person's emotional, physical and mental well-being.  Dementia is definitely along for the ride and if you bring your loved one who has dementia with you, then you MUST factor in their ability to handle the trip.  It may not be wise to travel:

  • if your loved one gets disoriented, aggressive, or agitated even at home.
  • if your loved one has started wandering.  
  • if the increase in people, activity or change in places is going to cause your loved one to be fearful.  

If you are unsure how your loved one will respond, consider taking a short trip first.  A day trip or even a single over-night stay may give you the information you need.  Just be prepared to cancel your plans and go home mid-trip if necessary.

Additional Information Sources:
Travel Guidelines for People with Dementing Illness (PDF)
     Seriously, if you read nothing else, read the above link.  It is that good.

Traveling with Dementia
Dementia and Traveling


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