September is World Alzheimer's Month, and what better way to spread awareness than to talk about tips and tricks that can help caregivers who care for a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer's. One struggle that many caregivers experience is making new memories and taking their loved one on trips. Sometimes, even the simplest trip can seem daunting. You may find that your loved one is suddenly afraid of things that they have never had any fear of before, or that they become lost in familiar places. This should not deter you from going on outings. To help with this endeavor we have compiled a list of tips that can help you continue to travel with your loved one.
Did you know that individuals living with Alzheimer's disease often also have difficulty with depth perception and peripheral vision? This happens because there are certain changes in the brain that affect the way they process visual information. These changes in the brain also alter your loved ones perception of the world and how they understand what is happening around them. This means that when you plan a trip with your loved one, it becomes very important to do some planning. The plan should include ensuring that important parts of your loved one’s routine is disrupted as little as possible. Therefore, if you are going on a simple outing, plan it around the typical routine and try to be aware of overstimulating environments or places that may affect your loved one’s depth perception. For more extended trips try the following:
- Make sure your loved one has an ID bracelet or GPS tag that isn’t easily removed. The ID bracelet should include your loved one’s name and phone number. Remember if your loved one is still using their cell phone, store your phone number in the phone as an emergency contact.
- If your loved one tends to wander off, then you may consider keeping a current photo of your loved one with you always just in case you get separated. Another item that helps is a laminated card that provides a simple explanation that your loved one has dementia. These devices help service people who might need to help you, this way they don’t get frustrated, impatient, or embarrassed and confused.
- If you need to take a flight with your loved one, try to avoid layovers and try to limit travel time. Any travel that takes longer than about 4 hours may become problematic, and you may find that the more that the dementia progresses the less time they are comfortable traveling.
- Go out of your way to take advantage of early boarding so you have time to get settled, and remember to let flight attendants know about any special needs.
- If your loved one needs to go somewhere for long enough that they need luggage, try to limit the luggage to a simple carry on. This limits time waiting at baggage claim. Make sure that documents and medications are always carried with you.
- Try velcro shoes or slip-ons so that if your loved one needs to go through any kind of security check it is easier for everyone to get put back together.
- Try to use family restrooms so that if your loved one needs help, you are close.
- Always bring a computer or tablet with headphones along so that your loved one can have entertainment and a way to “tune out” or relax.
- If your loved one has ever had symptoms that include outbursts, you may consider sleeping in a hotel instead of a busy household. Overstimulation and drama usually exacerbates a stressful situation which adds to the confusion and frustration that happens, so sleeping in a calm environment helps.
- Remember to let hotel staff know if your loved one has any special needs. Consider bringing along a professional care provider who can help in any situation you may run into.
- Avoiding noisy and crowded situations can reduce anxiety, fear, and confusion.
- Allow plenty of time for breaks, naps, and extra time for each activity so that no one is anxious, and everyone can relax and enjoy their time together.
If your loved one is still interested in traveling or going out with friends and family, then it is something worth doing! Remember that socialization is good, especially for those who have been recently diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. At Homewatch CareGivers of Bryan College Station, we are here to help you! We can provide you with information, resources, and tips to guide you. Keep browsing our website for more information or contact us today to learn more.