Many caregivers of a loved one with a memory disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, long for the days when they could travel with that person and enjoy special time together, visit friends or see the sights. Just because you are caregiving for a loved one with a memory disorder, it doesn’t mean travel is off limits.
The first step is to decide whether you should travel with or without your loved one. If your loved one has problems at home consistently with wandering, hallucinations, aggression, confusion, anxiety, and falls, then those problems will only get worse away from home. If your loved one doesn’t have those kinds problems on a regular basis, and you are in good health and can care for a loved one and yourself, then traveling can still be an option. If you decide that travel can be safe, then the next step is to figure out the logistics.
- Carefully plan your trip. Short stays are better than lengthy trips. Arrange for your lodging, destination, airlines, and other details in advance if you anticipate needing special assistance, such as escorts or disabled services. Let them know you are traveling with someone with a memory disorder. Choose your seats and accommodations carefully, focusing on practicality. If you travel by car, plan your route to include rest stops.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Traveling can be scary. Just imagine how your loved one may react to waiting in-lines, enduring security checks and the mad rush for seats, so stay close together at all times. Prevent separation and never leave your loved one alone.
- Prepare for potential mishaps. Before you travel, invest in an identification bracelet or other form of tracking, just in case you become separated. Keep an emergency kit with you at all times that includes emergency contact information, the hotel where you are staying, spare medication, and copies of ID, passports, insurance information, as well as snacks, water and a change of comfortable clothes.
- Don’t go it alone. Travel with a family member or someone who can help. This will give you some time for yourself to relax and enjoy your vacation too.
- Take it easy. Maintain a comfortable slow pace, including naps as needed, alternating activity days with rest days, and attempt to keep a travel schedule that is similar to your daily home schedule. If possible, schedule your outings during off-peak times of the day.
- Take a trial run. Take a mini-vacation close to home to see how things work out. If all goes well, then you can try a longer trip.
For those of you who cannot travel with a loved one, don’t eliminate the option of a vacation for you. Caregivers need a break. Don’t feel guilty – you are not abandoning your loved one. In fact, rested caregivers are healthier and better caregivers. Options include having helpers come into the patient’s home and stay there while you are away, or your loved one can have their own vacation at a care facility until you return. In any event, having a loved one with a memory disorder does not automatically eliminate travel for you or for them. Taking a vacation is a wonderful opportunity to share time together and make new memories, or traveling alone can be the break that you need.
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Article provided by: UCLA Longevity Center
Written by: Linda Ercoli, Ph.D., is a Clinical Professor and the Director of Geriatric Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute. She has expertise in the neuropsychology of aging and dementia. Her current research interests include early detection and prediction of dementia.