Whether it is a trip to your homeland or a vacation to some island with beautiful beaches, travel can be relaxing. It is a break from the daily routine that has us trapped in a repetitive cycle of boredom. However, it is this change in routine that can disturb a dementia patient when he or she is traveling.
Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that has a reputation for severely impairing its victim’s cognitive abilities. In 2017, the mental disorder had close to 50 million patients under its belt globally. However, the rate of the cognitive decline varies from person to person and worsens in stages.
The amount of cognitive decline that your loved one faces is a determinant factor in deciding if the patient can travel. Let’s dig in deeper to understand if a patient with dementia can travel and what you can do to ease the journey for your loved one.
Can a patient with dementia travel?
Admittedly, the answer to this question is both yes and no. When early signs of Alzheimer’s surface, a patient is still in his preliminary round of cognitive decline. This means that he can move around freely and is not entirely dependent on others. In fact, lots of people in their early stages of Alzheimer’s drive.
If you have a close one, who is in his early stages of dementia, then the answer to the question above is ‘yes.’ However, traveling with a patient with Alzheimer’s does not get a nod of approval when the individual experiences severe cognitive decline.
A dementia test is indication enough that the patient will gradually see a significant drop in his mental performance. The plummet in the cognitive abilities manifests in symptoms such as behavioral changes, confusion, wandering, irritability, communication problems, and so on.
About six in ten patients wander. This translates into difficulty in traveling. On top of that, patients having this degenerative disorder are habitual of staying in a routine. However, travel is all about routine alterations and new experiences that can make a patient upset easily.
Moreover, if your loved one insists on returning to home during short trips, such as a visit to the grocers, it’s a sign that the patient can’t travel. More signs that the person you care for can’t travel include agitated or aggressive behavior, consistent disorientation, and an inability to manage continence.
The answer to the question above is also a firm ‘no’ when your loved one doesn’t comply with wearing a seatbelt. Plus, a paranoid or delusional behavior is another alarm bell indicating the inability to travel.
Taking care of a dementia patient during traveling
For patients in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, travel can be punctuated with challenges. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no light at end of the tunnel. You can always make a trip more comfortable for the patient by taking the necessary measures.
Let’s discuss some of the most important steps for planning a trip that both you and your loved one can enjoy:
Plan a small trip to a familiar location
Start by selecting a location that causes the least anxiety to your loved one. Try to go to places that the patient knows from before the time the disease kicked in. This will carve a path of familiarity for the person, making the trip comfortable.
Typically, long road trips or air flights can get on our nerves. It’s only wise to think about the same scenario by standing in the shoes of a patient with dementia. Long trips can make the patient irritable. They can also get disorienting for him. Not to mention, the deviation from the routine gets longer with a longer trip. So, minimize the length and layover of the trip.
Pack more than what is required
While most of us are advised to keep the luggage light when traveling, this does not apply to a journey with an Alzheimer’s patient. Carry layers of clothing to be prepared for any temperature changes.
Pack plenty of fluids and snacks too. You can purchase them at the airport if you are traveling via air. Include all the essential medications and a copy of the prescriptions too. Jot down a list of all emergency contacts as well as other vital contact information.
It is best to pack a separate bag of essentials for the patient. It should include snacks, water, a change of clothes, and so on. Take all the necessary comfort items such as blankets, slippers, neck pillow, games, and music to name a few.
Other tips to remember
While planning the trip, keep in mind that a person living with dementia is sensitive to the smallest of matters including tiredness, hunger, and discomfort. Problems in communication can make matters worse, as the patient is unable to express his discomfort. This can plant seeds of increased confusion or agitation.
If you are traveling by air, then you need to talk to the airline in advance regarding travel needs and accommodation. You can also hire a professional caregiver. A caregiver can be helpful in ensuring a smooth journey by taking over matters like toileting and other physical needs of the patient.
Lastly, it is crucial that you don’t miss the identification bracelet. Make sure that your loved one is wearing such a bracelet. It comes in handy in case the patient wanders. You can also put a list bearing contact and medical details in his wallet for any unfortunate incidents.
There is no denying that traveling with a dementia patient can be challenging. However, proper planning can save you from a lot of trouble and make the trip manageable. Try to choose a travel location that the patient is familiar with. What’s more, take all the vital steps to ensure that the patient is comfortable.
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