Tips for Traveling with Seniors
Vacationing with senior loved ones can be a challenging adventure. Sometimes traveling will require bringing a plethora of medications, supplies, and space-consuming equipment. It can become even more demanding if the senior loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to provide a stress-free, fun experience for everyone.
- Do something small in advance of the getaway. A mini-trip is a great practice run at being away from home in temporary accommodations, a change that can stress many seniors.
- Prepare in advance. Research available accommodations to find the best option for the family and the senior. Contact them in advance for any special requests or needs you may have.
- Have a plan B. if something should happen, your love one falls ill or agitated, a contingency plan can make a tough situation easier to manage. Your plan B may involve returning home early if the situation requires you do so.
- Pack an “essentials” bag. Sort of like a first-aid kit, this is the go-to for anything senior loved one related. It should include labeled medications, a detailed medication list preferably on the prescribing doctors letterhead, extra clothes, emergency contacts, water, and snacks. If the senior has dementia, throw in some sensory items like games, puzzles, and other portable activities to keep the senior occupied while traveling. Utilize this bag as the senior’s carry-on if traveling by plane and make sure it is clearly labeled with name and contact information in case it becomes lost, or misplaced.
- Make regular rest stops. For many people the car is a tool of freedom but to a senior patient, especially one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, a car can be quite confining. Offer frequent stops to get our and stretch, use the restroom, or grab some snacks. Keep your senior loved one in sight if they are prone to wandering. Travel breaks can provide a relaxing driving experience for everyone involved.
- The space offered by mini-vans and 5-row vehicles is great, but not every family has one. If you can, keep the senior patient in the rear seat and sit them with someone they respond well to. If it becomes necessary, the travel buddy can help calm the senior and keep them occupied.
- As the driver, never try to calm an agitated loved one when the car is in motion. If you have other family members, including the above mentioned travel buddy, let them handle the situation. If you are alone, pull the car over as soon as you can. After the car has been stopped the driver is free to do what is needed to relax their loved one. If other people are present and are tending to the situation it is still recommended that the driver pull the car over and stop until the situation is under control.
- Expect hesitancy on the part of the senior, especially if they have dementia. Many people experience a fear of flying and this holds true for seniors with or without dementia as well. Try to ease fears and reassure the senior everything will be ok.
- Keep a recent picture of your loved one with you at all times. This is especially important when traveling with a senior who has wandering tendencies. The senior can appropriately and quickly be identified should they become lost.
- Talk with the senior’s doctor(s) about medications. Some patients may require calming medications to hinder a fear of flying or to help control anxiety behaviors that could disrupt the safety of a flight. The doctor can also suggest appropriate motion sickness medications for the senior traveler with the weak stomach.
- Speak with the airline in advance. Inform them of the senior’s situation, especially if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Discuss concerns, needs, and special arrangements your senior loved one may require. This is a great opportunity to discuss and attendant escort or reserve a wheelchair if one is needed. If your travel situation will require assistance, requests must be received by the airline no less than 48 hours in advance.
- As with most on vacation, seniors want to explore the new location and accommodations. However, for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s this can be dangerous. Be prepared for this behavior and also be prepared for retrieving a lost loved one.
- Use the before-mentioned recent picture to identify your loved one should they become lost. Another idea is to take a picture daily of your loved one with a cellphone or digital camera, which provides the most current visual of the senior.
- If you haven’t brought medical equipment with you, discuss if the lodging provider has any equipment you may need. If they have nothing or are lacking an essential, find out if they can help locate a rental. This can be done upon arrival, but communicating needs in advance will allow the family to start having fun sooner.
- Should the senior have dementia or Alzheimer’s consider bringing a door alarm to use in the hotel room. Lightweight and portable, door alarms can be used anywhere, providing safety to your senior and peace of mind to the family.