Are you caring for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s? If so, you’ve likely considered different activities that might be enjoyed, helping to preserve the quality of life of your family member.

Visiting friends or taking a vacation may be one option. Although you know that flexibility is key as behavioral changes often occur with this progressive illness, you may be wondering how best to include your loved one in any travel plans.

Each individual reacts differently to the illness so there are no one-size-fits-all recommendations. If you’re the primary caregiver, you are familiar with their more common reactions and what may trigger their stress or can help a travel companion know more about what to expect.

Whether for a week or even just a day outing, becoming familiar with a few of the general considerations could make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Alzheimer’s and traveling tips

It’s important not to assume that traveling is no longer possible after a family member receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Each individual responds to the illness differently and you’ll want to tailor your plans to create the most comfortable situation for your loved one.

However, it does mean that you’ll want to prepare ahead of time. The Alzheimer’s Association has provided the following tips when traveling with a loved one living with dementia:

  1. Plan ahead.
  2. Recognize the signs of anxiety and agitation and know strategies that may help reduce them.
  3. Keep travel plans simple and don’t overload your loved one with information.

Planning for the trip and your loved one’s response

Seeing a new area or visiting family and friends can be a wonderful experience. If your loved one was an avid traveler, he or she may still get great enjoyment out of the trip. But begin by asking yourself first if traveling or this type of trip is something your family member would likely enjoy and tolerate well.

If the answer is yes, next consider the ability of your family member to cope with travel. Will you be able to keep them safe or will it cause increased anxiety? Don’t ask for more than they can handle.

Plan any visit around what might work best for your loved one. If they become easily agitated with new surroundings, a short day trip may be best. Try to look ahead for situations that might trigger a negative reaction and think through how you might respond.

Remind yourself that you may need to adjust your plans and your expectations. Choosing destinations that are calming or familiar to your loved one and where the daily routine can be more predictable can help, as these features may also lessen anxiety and agitation.

Factors to consider when traveling

Planning ahead and preparing for possible situations can not only make the trip go smoother but may relieve some of your own stress and anxiety. Reviewing the following general guidelines may help you be aware of situations you might encounter when traveling:

  1. Changes in their environment may trigger wandering or confusion.
  2. Traveling to familiar destinations that require fewer changes in routine may be easier.
  3. Evaluate what mode of travel might be most comfortable and cause less anxiety.
  4. Confirm your destination has emergency health services and pharmacies.
  5. Tailor your trip’s activities to those that will cause less anxiety and confusion.
  6. If staying at a hotel, talk to the staff ahead of time for any help or assistance you might need.
  7. Have a backup plan if your trip changes unexpectedly.
  8. Create and share your trip itinerary with family members or friends.
  9. Travel during the time of day that is usually best for your loved one.
  10. Pack and keep with you a bag of essentials that includes medications, up-to-date medical information, list of emergency contacts, copies of important legal documents, your travel itinerary, change of clothes, water and snacks.
  11. Place a copy of identification, contacts, and the travel itinerary in your loved one’s pocket. 
  12. Allow enough time in the trip schedule to rest. Don’t plan too many activities.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s and traveling: visiting friends and family

If your trip involves visiting other family members or friends, you’ll want to discuss any plans ahead of time. If they haven’t seen your loved one in a while or are unaware of the changes that may have occurred, fill them in on what to expect.

Ask for their help and explain how best they could work with you to make this trip an enjoyable experience for your loved one. Any steps they could take to make your family member feel more comfortable and less anxious would be greatly appreciated.

Going over these items before you arrive can best prepare everyone involved:

  1. Discuss any special needs or accommodations that may be needed and if they can be provided.
  2. Explain that your visit may be cut short or that you may have to be flexible with any planned activities.
  3. Ask about the possibility of keeping your loved one’s normal routine, such as meals and bedtimes. It may also be easier to eat in rather than go to a crowded restaurant.
  4. Be realistic about your loved one’s abilities and allow extra time when scheduling activities.

Life at Tapestry Memory Care communities

We understand the life changes that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can bring but we also see the opportunities that families have to continue engaging with their loved ones. For some, travel can be a great experience. Although preparing ahead is always good advice, tailoring any plans to your family member can make all the difference.

If you’re caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and finding it more difficult to meet the increasing needs to ensure a high quality of life, we hope you will consider memory care at one of our communities. We know this isn’t always an easy decision to make and we are here to answer any questions that you may have.

Our staff is specially trained in the best practices and ways to connect with our residents. Our person-centered approach, services, amenities and activities all play an important role in helping both your loved one and your family live a meaningful and connected life. 

We understand that choosing the right community is an important decision. If you would like more information, we invite you to download our complimentary guide which contains helpful information for families considering senior living, Should You Stay or Should You Go?

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a personal tour, please contact one of our advisors at a community near you.