Being a caregiver is a full time job, and for some, it’s a responsibility in addition to a part or full time job outside the home. This is no easy task. Many people work long hours, have demanding jobs, skip lunch, and stay late. Go home. Repeat.
Summer is in full swing, and families are starting to plan their vacations. However, these getaways can prove stressful for caregivers who are traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or another dementia. Dementia patients thrive in familiar environments and routines; new surroundings and activities may overwhelm patients regardless the stage that they’re in. With the proper safety preparation, it is possible to enjoy a little getaway. That being said, these tips should, whenever possible, apply only to early-stage Alzheimer patients. Our nurses strongly discourage traveling with later-stage patients.
• Pack important documents
It’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared! Triple check that all necessary paperwork is packed in an accessible area. Important documents include:
- Doctors notes and referrals
- Lists of medicines and their dosages
- Local numbers for the police and fire departments and hospital
- List of food and drug allergies
- Emergency contacts
Having these documents will help caregivers deal with potential situations should they occur. As a caregiver, you can never be too careful.
• Have your loved one wear an identification bracelet
One of a caregiver’s biggest fears is having their loved one wander off. If that does happen, make sure they are wearing some sort of identification whether it be a bracelet or a nametag with their name and your phone number. If someone spots them, they can quickly contact you.
• Keep surrounding as familiar as possible
Traveling can be very stressful for your loved ones, especially if you’re traveling to a brand new location. While it’s recommended to keep your travel time at a minimum, sometimes it’s necessary to take an airplane or drive longer distances. To make your loved one feel more comfortable during the journey, bring some familiar items from home such as a favorite blanket or a pillow. Doing so may calm down them and reassure them that they’re okay.
• Airplane travel
Avoid flights with tight connections or layovers so you can spend time getting off the plane and resting. Even if walking is not difficult, consider renting a wheelchair for more efficient transportation.
• Keep things simple
Try not to over schedule and fit in too many activities during your vacation. Make sure there is plenty of time to rest throughout the day. If possible, avoid elaborate tours and sightseeing attractions which may cause confusion and anxiety. If your loved one is prone to falling or exhibits verbal and physical aggression, it may be a better idea to plan your trip locally.
• Create itinerary for emergency contacts
Creating a full itinerary will alleviate future headaches and obstacles in the trip. Record every place you’re visiting with full details such as length of stay and potential activities. Keep the itinerary with you at all times and make copies for your emergency contacts.