Hitting the Road with Alzheimer’s
By Sara Perry, Executive Director of Respite Care Charleston
Set realistic expectations for yourself and those you’ll spend time with, encouraging patience and flexibility and providing tips for dementia-friendly communication.
Schedule regular breaks during each day, giving your loved one with dementia (LO) plenty of opportunities to rest and recharge in a quiet, calm environment.
Keep in mind the increased possibility of digestive problems due to changes in diet and routine, and pay extra attention to hydration.
Before setting out for each day, use a smart phone to take a full-body photo of your LO and their clothing. If you become separated, you can instantly share the photo so others will know what to look for.
Stick to your regular schedule for meals and sleep as much as possible.
Keep a special travel bag with you at all times with these must-haves:
- A detailed travel itinerary, including accommodations and emergency contacts;
- A list of medical conditions and medications for both you and your LO, as well as the name and number of your primary care physician;
- Copies of your insurance cards and the medical power of attorney for your LO;
- Snacks, sanitizer, water, a sweater or blanket, noise canceling headphones, pain reliever and spare undergarments and a change of clothes.
Plan for restroom breaks at places with handicap or family restrooms so you can help your LO if needed. Look for newer rest areas and large truck stop chains or check out apps like “Flush” or “Squat or Not” to find convenient restroom options.
If you’re flying, notify the airline in advance and request use of a wheelchair while you’re at the airport. (If your LO resists using a wheelchair themself, ask them to help you while you ride in it.)
Avoid highly stimulated environments that can cause ‘sensory overload’. Crowded restaurants, loud music, flashing lights and situations with lots of activity can be really stressful for someone with dementia and may cause added confusion, agitation, crying or wandering.
Place a chair or heavy luggage in front of the door to keep your LO from leaving the room at night while you sleep.
Use a night light or leave on the bathroom light to help orient your LO towards the restroom at night.
People with dementia are more likely to wander in an unfamiliar environment, so make sure your LO carries identification at all times. The best ID is difficult to remove or lose and has your LO’s name and condition, your name and at least one phone number where you can be reached.
Remember, your LO’s mood will likely reflect yours, so allow yourself ample time, try to remain unruffled and upbeat, and do your best to project feelings of calm and confidence. If needed, fake it until you make it!
For more travel suggestions, or to learn more about the support and service Respite Care Charleston
provides caregivers and those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.RespiteCareCharleston.org or call 843.647.7405.