Travelling with Dementia: Travel tips from Dr Handford
Memory loss affects many people, particularly the elderly. This common problem need not be a barrier to travelling abroad, but careful thought should go into planning a safe, enjoyable trip.
Choosing your destination
- Memory loss can be very distressing, and new environments can be a source of confusion and upset. It may be sensible to travel to somewhere familiar, such as a favourite childhood destination or somewhere which has happy memories associated with it.
- Make sure to involve the person with memory problems in the decision making process, and let them help choose what type of holiday they would like. Ensure pictures and reminders of the holiday dates and destination are visible daily, and talk often about the holiday in the weeks leading up to it.
- Consider whether a language barrier may be difficult to cope with- travelling to a place where communication is difficult can make settling in more difficult.
- Plan journey times carefully, as travelling at night or across time differences can be disorientating and cause increased confusion and upset.
- Make sure people with memory problems aren't travelling alone, and if possible are travelling with familiar people who are well known to them.
- Make sure there is enough time allowed to have regular breaks for refreshments and fresh air, as well as access to toilet facilities. Ensure all travel arrangements are written down clearly, and kept somewhere safe. Keep reminding everyone of the plans and the next phase of the journey, and where you are headed.
What to take with you
- Make sure you take some familiar items- including favourite clothes and some reminders of home. A memory book with photographs of family members, friends, and home can be very calming to talk through and look at together.
- Make sure to take all regular medication with you, and consider whether using a labelled tablet box with the days of the week on it might make organising medication easier, and reduce the chance of forgetting to take it. A list of prescribed medication is useful too, in case medications get lost or need replacing whilst away. It is a good idea to carry enough medication for a few days in your hand luggage, in its original packaging, just in case luggage gets mislaid during your travels.
- Take your GP contact details with you, and if possible a brief summary of your medical problems in writing, just in case you need medical help whilst away and cannot recall all the details.
Where to stay
- On arrival, consider whether the person with dementia could wander unsupervised into any hazardous areas, and make sure room location is suitable- ground floor, away from busy roads, and near to the rest of the party.
- If possible, share a room so that there is a constant familiar presence. People may be more confused in unfamiliar environments and the risk of wandering is increased.
- People with memory problems can become more confused very quickly if they become unwell. Avoid dehydration by encouraging regular drinks. Try to limit alcohol intake, as this can worsen dehydration and increase the risk of falls and wandering.
- Simple infections of the urinary tract or chest, or problems like constipation or pain, can have a dramatic effect on memory and may suddenly make confusion worse. Take some rehydration sachets, laxatives, and pain killers with you in case.
- It is important to remind someone with memory problems of the importance of using high SPF sun protection, as sunburn can cause dehydration, and be very painful and distressing, as well as the longer term consequences. Avoiding the hottest part of the day in a warm climate is also sensible.
- Taking regular exercise is important, but make sure someone with memory problems is not walking or swimming somewhere unfamiliar without company.
- Make sure the person with dementia carries some identification with them, preferably with a contact number of their accommodation or travelling partners on it.
- Ensure you have adequate health insurance to provide for any medical care that may be needed whilst away.
Always consult your own doctor before travelling
These travel tips are intended to provide general information for those travelling with someone suffering from dementia and do not replace a visit to your doctor. If you are planning a holiday you should consult your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and discuss any specific health requirements you may have.
About Dr Handford
Dr Ruth Handford is a GP with over 10 years' experience of working in both hospital and primary care. She is particularly interested in caring for the elderly in the community, child health, and family planning. Ruth lives and works in a rural community, and is kept very busy by her job and young family.
Important Information: These travel tips are intended to provide general information for those travelling with someone suffering from dementia and do not replace a visit to your doctor. If you are planning a holiday you should consult your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and discuss any specific health requirements you may have.
Travel Insurance for Dementia
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend that you have travel insurance in place every time you travel abroad. Make sure that your travel insurers are aware that you suffer from dementia and ensure that your travel insurance covers this as well any other medical conditions you may have.
Goodtogoinsurance.com is proud to be able to provide cover for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's.