By Geri Richards Hall, PhD, ARNP, CNS, FAAN
Many people enjoy
travel as a form of recreation, relaxation, and an
opportunity to learn. While travel may be a positive
experience for most people, it poses special problems
for people with dementing illnesses, for example,
Alzheimer's disease, multi-infarct dementia, Parkinson's
disease, Pick's disease, or injury that results in
disabling intellectual impairment.
People with dementia have ever-increasing trouble with
changes of pace, changes in location, fatigue, groups of
people, changes of time zone, and noise. In a familiar
environment, there are many environmental cues that help
a person with dementia to remain moored in reality. A
favorite chair, a well-learned TV control, and a
familiar floor plan are taken for granted.
Unfamiliar places, however, lack these well-known
moorings and result in increased confusion, anxiety, and
fear. Even places that once were familiar, such as a
winter home, can seem new or alien, triggering fear or
anger. Caregivers who are planning to travel need to
plan trips carefully in advance, using both travel and
healthcare professionals to determine the best possible
methods to cause the least distress to your loved one.
The following guidelines have been developed to assist
you with travel planning. After reading the guidelines,
you might want to discuss them with either your
physician or your local chapter of the Alzheimer's
Careful well-informed planning is the best way to guarantee a
successful trip. These plans involve considering the following
Considerations and Reasons
What are your loved one 's limitations and strengths? To determine
whether the person should be able to manage the trip you are
Where are you going? The distance traveled and location will
determine the most efficient method of travel.
How long is the trip? Prolonged travel involving many destinations
or touring can be very disruptive to the loved one.
Where will you be staying? If staying in an acquaintance's home, do
they understand about dementing illness? If in hotels, attention
must be paid to exits and available amenities.
What will you be doing when you get there? Fatigue, large groups of
people, and noise bother many care receivers. Plan for regular rest,
quiet stops, and a relaxed itinerary.
How are you planning to get there? Use the method that involves the
least time and hassle. As a rule, do not plan for the care receiver
to help with driving.
What resources or special things will you need during the trip? Many
hotels and airlines offer special services for the disabled. Using
them can enhance the success of the trip.