TRAVEL WITH DEMENTIA: YOU CAN’T! OR CAN YOU?
Is going on a trip still possible for people suffering from dementia?
TRAVEL WITH DEMENTIA: YOU CAN’T! OR CAN YOU? Unfortunately, if an older adult woman or man has dementia, it does not automatically mean he cannot travel with you. However, it is important to honestly assess symptoms before making a decision and going on the trip.
It does not necessarily mean that because the person is comfortable in their normal environment and daily life that travel will be without complications.
You must expect that the person may suffer more frequent wanderlust, restlessness, or anger outbursts when leaving familiar surroundings. The reason for this is simple: routine and the feeling of being at home provides a sense of security and comfort. If this familiarity is interrupted by travel, the relaxed feeling can no longer be guaranteed. It is of particular importance that the safety of both the patient and yourself is paramount.
In this week’s blog post, we’ll explain how you can immediately tell if a trip may not be safe. In addition, we’ll show you 6 ways to indicate whether a trip will be successful, how you can safely test if a trip is even possible. And last but not least what you can do if a trip is not possible for various reasons.
IMPORTANT: A person with dementia should never travel alone. There are too many decisions to make, complicated instructions to follow, and strangers to communicate with. It is unlikely that you will get to your destination safely. Instead, you need a trusted caregiver to guide you every step of the way.
Signs that traveling with dementia is not safe
If any of these factors apply to your prospective travel partner, you can assume with a fairly high degree that travel is not a safe option for everyone involved.
- Later stage dementia
- Frequent disorientation, confusion or agitation (even in familiar places)
- Agitation or anxiety in crowded or noisy environments
- Desire to go home during short outings or visits
- Delusional, paranoid, or inappropriate behavior
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Sudden screaming, shrieking, or crying
- Wandering behavior
- Problems managing incontinence
- High risk of falls
- Unstable medical conditions
6 questions for deciding whether a journey with dementia will be successful.
1. How advanced are your older adult’s dementia symptoms?
If the dementia is still in its early stages, it is still possible to travel. Does on the other hand, the disease progresses, it can become very stressful and overwhelming for fellow travelers.
If the dementia has already progressed to the middle stage, it is more difficult to decide whether a trip makes sense or not. It is especially important to assess what the abilities and challenges realistically look like. Symptoms come and go and can vary in severity and intensity. It is better to be more cautious here.
If the dementia has already reached a late stage, it is not recommended to travel with the person. Often people of this stage are fatigued and overwhelmed with everyday tasks and challenges. They are also more susceptible to illness and infection and have problems with physical abilities such as sitting, eating, or swallowing,
2. How well do you cope with dementia symptoms?
Unfortunately, this point is often overlooked or given too little attention. How are you doing? How are you coping with the dementia symptoms? Even for an experienced caregiver, traveling is a new challenge and presents you with unprecedented hurdles. In reality, you will have to cope with unexpected situations, challenging behaviors, which also often take place in public, lack of sleep, and particularly stressful situations.
Are you coping well with your older adult’s current dementia symptoms? If so, this is a good sign. You are not coping well with your older adult’s current dementia symptoms? Yes ? This is not a good sign. Are you having trouble coping with the symptoms and also feel overwhelmed or burned out, travel may not be a good idea.
If you add pressure to the current stress by traveling, neither the quality of life for you nor for the person with dementia will improve. On the contrary, the symptoms may even temporarily worsen and you will probably not be able to enjoy the trip.
3. How do you behave in crowded, noisy or confusing situations?
Is your senior comfortable in public when you are out and about with him or her? However, if the behavior becomes uncontrolled and extreme as soon as you are in restaurants, grocery stores or shopping malls with him, traveling is most likely not a good idea.
Play out a situation and think very carefully about how the person behaves in crowded, noisy, busy places. Does he get upset? Or angry? Or seems anxious or frightened? What happens when plans suddenly change?
4. Is it worth the trip?
Because you can’t predict what will happen, traveling with someone with dementia is usually a risk. Consider how important the trip is to the person with dementia and whether it is worth the risk.
For example, a significant family event that will be remembered is more important than a trip just for fun.
5. Where will the trip go and what mode of transportation will you use?
A very important consideration is the destination. Familiar places, ones that your travel partner knows, ones that he or she visited frequently before the disease will make it easier for him or her to adjust. It is also important to travel to a place where you do not have to change your current daily routine very much.
How do you get to this place? Travel by car gives you great flexibility and control. Traveling by plane can be hectic, unpredictable, and sometimes uncontrollable, plus you are bound to fixed times. This usually makes everything more difficult. However, if you prefer to travel by air, it is advisable to aim for a shorter duration than a flight that is too long. Also because of the time difference.
6. Do you have assistance on your trip and at your destination?
How much assistance will you need on your trip and at your destination? This is also a very important point that you should consider and plan carefully. If you take care of the elderly person alone on the entire trip, this is a greater challenge than if you travel with 2-3 other people who can help you. In addition, it may be advantageous for you to take experienced caregivers with you on your trip.
With a vacation not far from home, you can test how a person reacts to travel
Are you still undecided about whether it would be beneficial for the older adult to take him or her on a trip? It may well be helpful to take a short vacation to your hometown not far from home. This is called a “staycation.”
For example, you could book a few nights at a local hotel, spend a few hours driving around by car, bus, train. In addition, you could eat all your meals out and sleep in the accommodation you booked.
Pretend it’s a real vacation, not far from your own 4 walls. This test will allow you to see firsthand how the person is coping with the change in environment and routine. If symptoms worsen significantly, you can always stop the test trip and go home.
What to do if travel is not possible for your senior with dementia?
It is not uncommon that travel is too overwhelming or stressful for seniors with dementia. If this is the case for your older adult, it is advisable not to push them beyond their limits.
If it is not possible for the person to travel and thus not attend important family events or visits, technology can be a great helper. For example, if there is a wedding coming up, you can set up video chats so that the person can be part of the ceremony from home, participate in it and talk to relatives and friends. In this way it is possible to participate in celebrations.
Remember, this does not mean you cannot travel. In order for you to travel and take an often overdue break, consider asking family members to provide care. You can also hire in-home caregivers or arrange a short stay in an assisted living community that meets your older adult’s needs.
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Final thoughts on “TRAVEL WITH DEMENTIA: YOU CAN’T! OR CAN YOU?”
One of the most important things is that you don’t overwhelm yourself or the person with dementia, and don’t force what you can’t do. However, it can certainly do both you and your companion good to go away for a few days if you have made the necessary arrangements and weighed the circumstances.
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We hope you enjoyed our blog post on the topic “TRAVEL WITH DEMENTIA: YOU CAN’T! OR CAN YOU?” has pleased you. Please contact us at any time if you have any questions or comments.