Holiday Travel Tips When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

As people conduct their holiday travel this year, planning and completing a long-distance trip can be very stressful for the more than 230,000 Illinois residents currently living with Alzheimer’s and their families. While the symptoms of this progressive brain disease can sometimes make travel more difficult, it doesn’t mean families can’t travel with a loved one with dementia and participate in holiday festivities.

The Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter offers a number of easy tips to help ensure a safe and smooth trip when traveling with a person living with dementia.

General travel considerations

  • Stick with the familiar: Travel to known destinations. Try to visit places that are familiar.
  • Be prepared: Create an itinerary that includes details. Give copies to family members or friends. Keep a copy with you.
  • Pick the right time: Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with Alzheimer’s.
  • Avoid layovers: If unavoidable, ask about airport escort services.
  • Ask for help: For example, request airline personnel to help you navigate through the airport.
  • Find local support: Before you go, contact the Alzheimer’s Association chapter at your destination.

Documents to take with you when traveling

  • Doctors’ names and contact information
  • A list of current medications and dosages
  • Phone numbers and addresses of the local police and fire departments, hospitals and poison control
  • A list of food or drug allergies
  • Copies of legal papers (living will, advanced directives, power of attorney, etc.)
  • Names and contact information of friends and family members to call in case of an emergency
  • Insurance information (policy number, member name)

Traveling alone with dementia

Some individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer’s who remain independent may be able to travel alone, but planning ahead is necessary. Consider the following:

  • When booking flights, inquire if the airline offers a “meet-and-greet” service to escort passengers through security and to their gate terminal. This service may also be used to help passengers transfer between connecting flights.
  • Inquire about any other services that would offer companion support to meet the safety needs of the passenger.
  • Include all emergency contacts on the airline reservation.
  • Contact TSA to determine if a pass can be issued to family members or friends to escort the passenger through security to their gate terminal.
  • Make sure that all travel documents and identification are readily accessible. It may be helpful for the person to wear a document holder.

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