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Travel Guidelines for People with Memory Disorders
By Geri Richards Hall, PhD, ARNP, CNS, FAAN

(Page 1 of 4)

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 Association.

Plan Early
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 planning.

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.


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