Today, there are about 16 million people in the U.S. caring for a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Occasionally, it becomes necessary to take a trip, whether to the doctor’s office or across the country. It can be challenging, to say the least.
Here are a few tips that might help make the trip easier and less stressful for everyone. Organization is key.
1. Keep important documents with you
Your document packet could include:
- Emergency contacts including phone numbers of people living at the destination address
- Names and phone numbers of everyone in the travel group
- A list of all current medications, supplements and dosages
- Any food or medication allergies
- Physician’s name and contact information
- Travel itinerary – keep one and give copies to family and friends; include flight numbers, hotel reservations and any useful information
- Insurance information
- Copy of living will and medical power of attorney
- Copy of guardianship documents
2. Identification bracelet
Many dementia patents wander. An ID bracelet is preferable, but if not available put their name and your phone number on their clothing and in their wallet. Include a list of medical conditions.
3. Bring some familiar items
New surroundings are confusing, so bring a few favorite items from home. Try to maintain the same routine as much as possible.
4. Talk to the airline ahead of time
Rules and restrictions keep changing, so discuss the situation ahead of time. Try to avoid connecting flights and layovers. Arranging for a wheelchair can simplify getting to the gate. You may be able to pre-board.
5. Try to restrict travel time to four hours or less
For longer trips, have two caregivers. Bring photos or other items to occupy your loved one during the trip.
6. A hotel may be easier than staying with relatives
A hotel room can provide a calm respite from too much busyness. Inform the hotel staff in advance of any special needs.
7. Be realistic
Allow extra time at each stage of the trip. Be realistic as to expectations. Bring a lot of patience.
8. Hire a medical transport service
It you expect the trip to be very difficult, a medical transport service could be the answer for either ground or air travel. Many will allow one caretaker to travel.
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