Friday, September 23, 2016

Travel is Trauma

When you think of travel you probably think of the fun or the business you have scheduled once you reach your destination.  If you're flying, you may complain about having to go through airport security or the stress of a delayed or canceled flight.  If you're driving, you may have your stops plotted out so you know you won't run out of gas.  When you travel and have dementia, you're actually courting trauma.

We knew that travel could have a negative impact on Lyn's abilities.  What we didn't realize until her doctor's visit at the start of the week was that Lyn would respond to the travel as though it was trauma.  The travel of trauma comes from being removed from your familiar environment.  It comes from not remembering where you are going, who you will be seeing or if you will return.  It comes from the change in schedule or the lack of a schedule.  It comes from the stress of travel itself.

Normally, when you travel, you have time to mentally prepare for your trip.  You may know weeks or months in advance that you're going.  You think about it.  You plan it.  You anticipate it.  When a family emergency comes up, you respond quickly but you have the emotional and mental resilience to respond to the stresses of the family emergency.  Lyn had none of that.

The trip to Tennessee was a sudden one.  It was brought to Lyn's attention the night before they left because the decision to go was made just hours before she was told.  She didn't have time to mentally prepare for the trip.  The next morning, they got in the car and drove 1,500 miles.  Lyn could focus on  the destination being where our Aunt and Uncle live.  She couldn't understand the where or the what of Tennessee.

Seeing our Aunt in the hospital was another trauma.  Lyn knows she's dying and is quick to point out that God will decided when our Aunt dies.  Lyn hasn't had a hospital stay since her birth.  She doesn't remember when Mom had one 30+ years ago.  She didn't see me in the hospital when I delivered my child.  What she saw was someone she loves very much in the hospital due to a critical illness and she knew that there was nothing they could do.  She also knew that this trip was the last time she was likely to see our Aunt.  Despite keeping it together in the hospital, it was traumatizing to her.

Despite the urgent nature of the trip, Mom recognized that Lyn needed interventions which others may not have needed.  They drove not due to finances.  They drove because it would prevent Lyn from having to go through the stress of airport security, needing a note from the doctor explaining that Lyn has dementia or risking an encounter with staff who would not facilitate a smooth transition for Lyn.  They drove because if Lyn got anxious and needed a break, Mom could pull off so they could get out of the car.  You can't do that with a plane.  Mom built in a trip to Dollywood and stopped at a massive outdoor sporting goods store to cater to Lyn's desire for entertainment and shopping.

Looking back, would we subject Lyn to the trip again knowing the impact on her?  Yes.  The trip was the right thing to do because of the nature of it.  Will we put Lyn on a plane to bring her to visit my family in VA?  No.  Subjecting her to that level of trauma just so we can have fun would not be right.

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