Traveling with an Alzheimer’s Senior

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; I am going to take my older sister on a garden tour trip to Canada, this spring. Any suggestions?

As long as you are with her – there should be no problem. I would always get travel insurance. You never know how fast her condition can change. She may be in a comfortable spot with her dementia at this time but life can change.  Just be sure you’re covered financially if you have to cancel.

Get a good ID Bracelet with her name and your cell phone number. If she gets lost,  a good person can easily call your cell phone. Give her a cell phone to wear around her neck. My husband has one with him all the time, but he often forgets how to use it. Write on the back “push 1 to call Sarah” so she can remember how to call you, if she is confused. Make sure others around you know she has memory challenges. That way they will take note if they see her alone and walking away. They have GPS units that you can put on her wrist and then have the receiver in your purse. If she goes a missing, you click it on and find her blinking on the screen. It does have a range, so put on your own antenna and remember to keep her by your side or with a few minutes range at all times.

Most doctors that treat dementia of all forms; ask the care family not to make any changes around the patient. The familiar keeps dementia seniors comfortable, calm and functioning well. But if you are traveling with her and she uses you as her safe key for comfort there should be no problems.

I know many people that take short trips with dementia patients and they have had nothing but fun times. It’s always good to remember you are not going to leave her for a moment. Not even in the room to take a nap. You can never plan on her movements on her own. She could wake in a strange room walk out the door and you would be looking for her all over the place. Think of what you would do with a toddler and how you would not leave them, well that is the idea for the dementia/Alzheimer senior.

I know from a friend that was a flight attendant – the amount of people that literally dump grandma at the airport with a ticket in her hand. The senior is guided to the gate and then just pushed along with others through to the flight, but on the other end, who is there? Usually the family has had enough and is sending grandma on to another sibling. That is NOT how you treat a person that can go into confusion at any moment.

My friend said the flight crew is nervous all through the flight with worry over the senor’s safety in an emergency and they often have to escort off the plane and sit and wait with the senior for the family to show up. Sad stuff.

I am guilty. When my husband was in early stages of dementia/Alzheimer’s he went on a trip to visit his kids in California. We had NOT gotten a diagnosis of his dementia at that time. He had been forgetting things, showing odd behavior and expressing anger but it was early days, yet. So, he got a ticket from his son and he was ready to go.

Now, as a life-long traveler (my husband owned and ran travel agencies for over 35 years) he was ready to hit the road on the drop of a hat. But, I did notice he was confused and upset about packing. Boy that really threw me, because my husband had always been the packing genius. I would take forever to pack and he would pack in 10 minutes for 3 weeks in Europe! His behavior was strange enough that I packed for him, that time. I dropped him off, with time to spare, at the airport with cookies to eat before the flight, kisses, goodbyes and drove off. He made it through to the plane and the flight was on time. He then got off in Reno and he called me right away, “francy, I just can not remember why I am here?” he said.

I was a mess of worry over the call. He son did pick him up on time and no other words were spoken about the trip but positive stuff. So, I calmed down until two days later. The phone rang again, “francy, I have just called Kittens and asked her to come and get me. I have no idea how to get back to Jo’s place”. He had taken the car to drive into town and look around while his son went to work and he got lost, lucky for us, his daughter drove to met him and get him back to the house right away. Her immediate response saved the us all from a lot of pain.

That was that for me. I made a pledge that he would not travel without me, again! I was so happy to see his smiling face when he got off the plane and walked out of the gate area. He was filled with happy stories and yet, he knew his life had changed. He even asked me to make an appointment with the doctor, he accepted the fact that he needed help. It was the beginning of a big change in our lives and I am just glad I got him home safe. He could have gotten so lost driving around the mountain area of Tahoe City.

The problem with dementia/Alzheimer’s is that you never know what confuses someone. Some place or thing they have done over and over through the years, suddenly slips out of their mind and they lose their place. They can use the remote control for the TV on a daily basis and suddenly start to push buttons in frustration. They drive to the local store and then forget why they’re in the parking lot, they start to put oil in the car and then walk away and leave the car there with the oil bottle still tipped upside-down in the engine area. It is so strange to watch their minds change and so you can not count on any normal or usual action to take place.

The confusion of getting off a plane and not knowing what direction to walk to the baggage area. That could set them off and they would wander down and around the airport for hours. The confusion of sitting at a different table having lunch and you go for the salad bar and they just get up and start to wander off. 

Then they have a few days of total calm and awareness of their surroundings and you think  “Oh, things are OK now.”  But you have to accept that things are never going to be better now – ever. Their minds will slowly get worse and you just have to change your life to fit into their new life. So, treat them as you did your younger toddlers, keep them in eye’s view.

Keep your sister right with you and then the trip to the store or the beautiful Canadian gardens will be fun and enjoyable for you both. Thank you for such quality care of your sister, she is a lucky girl to have you. Please go to my website and get other tips on all senior care issues. I also have a great FREE Senior Care Placement Service that will help you make a decision on future advanced care for your loved one.

By the way, I have a dear friend that specializes in trips & cruises for seniors and those with challenges. To visit her website go to my web page and click on the links. Linda is a dear gal and will give you excellent care. She was a terrific care giver to her mother, with Alzheimer’s for many years so she has been there. She has traveled the world and is an expert in group and personal tours.  Plus, she is a very nice lady and you will enjoy having her help you with all your travel needs.  Her web site has her phone contact information. Just give her a call and see if she can really add some zing to your life with a little safe travel!

Please go and enjoy the rest of the Alzheimer blogs on my Dear Francy blogs and visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.comto get more information. Don’t forget, when you get to the stage that you need  care facility help for your loved one, please contact me and let me help you through that process with our Loving MemoriesSenior Care Facility Placement Service that is FREE for you to use.

Thank you, francy


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