By Kelly Focht, MSW from the George Glenners Alzheimer's Family Centers.
.....Vacations are something we all look forward to as an
opportunity to re-charge our batteries, relax, explore new
places, meet new people and spend time with our loved one or
finally an opportunity to visit our old friends or missing
.....For the person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) vacations are not always the same experience. May be good for a person with light AD tobe around relatives and old friends sharing memories and pleasant memories but for others with advanced AD...the vacations that were once filled with exotic new places to visit...can now become disorienting and fearful places. Your loved one can become overwhelmed by the sea of strangers, the different languages, hotels, time changes and method of travel (busy plane, bus or train terminals).
.....This doesn’t mean that a person with Alzheimer’s cannot travel and enjoy a vacation but rather the caregiver must plan ahead and understand that a vacation for an Alzheimer’s patient is a very different experience from his or her own.
.....To ensure to have a safe and enjoyable vacation, no matter what may be the challenges, you will need to spend time preparing and planning for.
Here a few suggestions
Access Services - Utilize the services available to disabled persons while traveling. First, contact your travel agent, the airport, train or bus station ahead of time to identify the services available. Have the airport ambassadors shuttle you to the departure gate for your flight, utilize a wheelchair and have the airline board you and your loved one first. This will help you and your loved one minimize confusion, walking distance and expedite passing through security.
Share Information - Tell key employees you are traveling with a person with AD. It is important that key persons on planes, trains and busses are aware of possible behavioral challenges you or they may face. In this day and age of heightened security in all forms of travel an uninformed employee may interpret a yelling, upset and angry AD individual as intoxicated or potentially violent. However, if they are aware from the beginning it will help them to better manage the behaviors they may encounter.
Identify Resources - Know where hospitals are in the area you are traveling and how you are able to access services within your insurance plan. If your loved one becomes ill or unmanageable you need to know how to access services to assist you. This is also important to know in case someone become ill while traveling and even be prepare if you are the one getting sick.
If you are visiting friends or relatives, talk to them in advance for what services you may need and how they can be a help.By doing this nobody will have a surprise and nobody will feel uncomfotable.
Medications – Before traveling, make sure your loved one have received a recent check up and have all of the medications necessary for the duration of the vacation plus two days in case of travel delays. It is also a good idea to have the doctor write out any prescriptions your loved one will need in case any medications are lost or misplaced. Remember to obtain medication for anxiety in case your loved one becomes anxious and confused while traveling and you cannot calm them down. Try the anti-anxiety medication before you travel to observe any side effects, such as nausea or extreme fatigue. It would be a shock to find out at the end of a two-hour flight that the anti-anxiety medication administered made your loved one so sleepy or drowsy that they could not walk off the plane or so sick they could not travel.
When packing, all the prescription medication should be stored in the original prescription bottle to avoid any security or legal issues; and while traveling, the medications should be placed in a carry-on bag to ensure that the traveler will always have access to medications even if their checked luggage is lost or arrives late. Before reaching the airport make sure that all bags are tagged with contact information including names, address and phone numbers.
Travel with a Buddy - If possible travel with another family member (son, niece, cousin), friend or paid caregiver. This will offer you some respite while on vacation as well as another set of hands to help with the daily tasks of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
Travel Insurance – Take out travel insurance in case you must cancel or end your trip prematurely.
Take the time to plan – Travel a day early to make for a more relaxed trip. By planning on traveling one day ahead of any main activity you can make sure that you will arrive early and everyone can get plenty of rest before the next day. Do not schedule too many events for one day and plan scheduled times to relax or take naps. By not rushing your loved one, since they will feel more relaxed and comfortable and you will be able to spend better quality time together. Take the time to plan, and traveling will be easy, relaxing and enjoyable for all.
Be Realistic – Really think about your vacation and decide if it is realistic to take your loved one on this vacation. Make a balance for what is now and will be ahead for you, and from your love one side. Often times, it is far more work and far less of a vacation for the caregiver. A more realistic and beneficial vacation may come in the form of just the caregiver taking time off and realizing some much needed respite.
.....If aftermath you decided you are going into the adventure, by
following the mentioned advices, and take the time to plan, the
traveling will be easy, relaxing and enjoyable for all.
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