Travelling

While staying in a familiar environment is generally a good thing for people with dementia, travelling is often necessary and can offer you all a welcome change of scene.


Sometimes you might need to travel to a different care situation, a relocation, a family event, or maybe to visit a place where the person with dementia spent happy times in the past. While travelling with someone with dementia can be as fulfilling and fun and as any other journey, there are some challenges you may need to think about in order to keep them safe.

Travelling in the early stages of dementia is usually better as many people don’t react well to being out of their routines, but that’s not always possible. With some thoughtful planning and the right conditions it is entirely possible to have a successful trip or holiday.

 when not to travel

You may want to reconsider travelling if the person shows:

  • frequent disorientation or agitation at home or in other familiar places
  • they want to go home when away on short visits
  • delusional, paranoid, aggressive or uninhibited behaviour
  • incontinence issues
  • they are teary, anxious or withdrawn in crowded, noisy settings
  • agitated or wandering behaviour.

However, if you must travel, talk to their doctor about whether medication might help settle the person with dementia. Making sure they are travelling with someone they find familiar and reassuring should also help.

Test it out – even if they seem completely okay it’s useful to take a short trial trip using the type of transport you will be using in the longer trip. This will help you know for sure if the person can handle travelling, and show up any issues you might face on your journey that might mean a change of plan is a good idea.

 tips for travelling by car

  • Check the person is comfortable in the seat, especially when travelling for long distances.
  • Know whether you need to help to do or undo their seat belt.
  • Be aware of their safety when getting out of the car, especially if you’re parked on the road.
  • Don’t drive alone with a person who is agitated – they could be a safety risk to themselves, you, and others on the road
  • If the car door has a childlock, it’s probably a good idea to put it on.

 tips for travelling overseas

Travelling overseas brings extra challenges and you should ask for some specialist advice even as you are planning your trip. That should help you know what to expect and means you can plan ahead for any alternatives you may need to take.

It’s a good idea to:

  • build in flexibility for stopovers so they can adjust to time differences – if you’re using a travel agent, ask them to allow for longer stopping times, including extra time to get between flights
  • get the best travel insurance possible.

Tips for on the aeroplane:

  • It’s a good idea to request an aisle seat close to the toilet.
  • If possible, check the luggage all the way through to your final destination but take at least one change of clothing on the flight.
  • If you feel it is appropriate, notify the airline that someone with dementia will be flying with them – most airlines are very helpful..
  • If you need help to get the person to the toilet, ask cabin staff for help.

Tips for staying in a hotel

  • Lock the door to the room with the safety latch and consider a portable door alarm.
  • Leave the bathroom light on all night.
  • Unfamiliar taps and knobs can be very confusing – make sure you turn the shower on and get it to the right water temperature.

 general travelling tips

  • Be prepared to do everything for two – you need to make all the arrangements and hold all the money and documents, including a list of important contacts.
  • Encourage the person with dementia to wear an identification bracelet with emergency contact details at all times.
  • Take enough medication to cover the time you’re away – and take a list of recent and current medications, which may be helpful if they become unwell.
  • Be aware of public toilet blocks that have more than one entry or exit point – use disabled toilets where there is space for you to be in there together.
  • Allow plenty of time for everything and to get everywhere.
  • Keep a sense of humour and laugh at the funny things that happen along the way.
  • Always ask for help – people cannot help if they don’t know there’s a problem.

 

There is help available for you as you care for someone with dementia, contact your local Alzheimers organisation for more information.