By Sam van Kalkeren, MSN, RN, CDP
Memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, word loss, difficulty reading, repetitive behaviors, repetitive questions, impulsive behavior, hearing voices, seeing shadows, inability to dress appropriately, incontinence, and to feel lost in your home. These are just some symptoms that people with dementia may experience. Now, imagine someone experiencing any of these symptoms in a noisy, chaotic airport. It would be overwhelming, scary, and even paralyzing.
Is it ok for people with dementia to travel?
Having dementia does not mean you can’t travel, but traveling needs to be safe. Some dementia symptoms where traveling may not be safe include:
• Physical and verbal aggression
• Frequent screaming, yelling, or crying
• Unstable medical conditions
• Inappropriate behavior, hallucinations, or delusions
• Easily agitated in crowded or loud places
Traveling with dementia – 5 tips
If your loved one with dementia needs to travel, there are a few things you can do to make the journey easier.
1. Avoid overnight travel.
People who have dementia tend to have a disrupted internal body clock. Fatigue can cause agitation and trigger wandering behavior. Shadows can trigger hallucinations and paranoia. It is important to maintain a regular sleep cycle.
2. Plan ahead.
Communicate with the airline and book wheelchair service from drop off to the gate. Bring a change of clothes, an extra pair of shoes, hygiene wipes, and Ziplock bags in case of any incontinence. Call TSA Cares at 855-787-2227 three days ahead and inform them you are traveling with someone with dementia. They will assist you through security.
3. Avoid large groups and noisy and crowded areas when possible.
Avoiding these areas can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Some airlines have sensory rooms available in airports to help reduce stress and stimulation overload.
4. Get medical clearance
Obtain a fitness to fly and airline medical clearance from the primary care physician and the medical department of the airline carrier if appropriate. If traveling with supplemental oxygen, pre-approval by the airline’s medical department with advanced notice of 48-72 hours is required. Ensure all medications are labeled and secured in carry-on luggage.
5. Hire a traveling RN to accompany your loved one.
A traveling RN can support your loved one throughout the flight and is experienced in handling many different medical and behavioral situations. A traveling RN can also provide essential medical support to your loved one while traveling.
Getting help supporting a loved one with dementia
If you have a loved one with dementia who needs to travel or relocate, O’Connor Professional Group is here to help. Contact us today to find out how our compassionate team of care coordination experts can help you and your loved one navigate traveling with dementia.