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Dementia and Traveling: How to do it and what to expect

Dementia is a progressive disease that can be difficult to manage. However, recent studies have shown that traveling can benefit people with dementia positively.

Pegasus Senior Living | Nice happy couple sitting together in the cafe
Provider: zinkevych –

Get the facts with Dr. Sandra Petersen, Senior VP of Health and Wellness of Pegasus Senior Living. Learn more about how traveling can improve the mental health and well-being of people with dementia.

Dr. Petersen recently spoke with Woman’s World regarding the benefits of traveling with someone with dementia. Enjoy our exclusive extended article.

Why might tourism help improve mental health and cognition in a person with dementia?

Humans are naturally curious. Realizing this lays the foundation for the utilization of tourism for early to moderate stage clients with dementia.

While requiring some pre-planning, traveling with someone in earlier stages of dementia can provide essential opportunities for engagement and socialization that can combat the depression and isolation that often accompany the early stages of cognitive loss.

A carefully crafted itinerary with frequent rest periods and plenty of “helping hands” can be a positive experience for the client with dementia and the caregiver.

Tips for Traveling with A Person with Dementia

  1. Get organized
  2. Plan ahead
  3. Take extra help
  4. Make lasting memories
  5. Test first

1. Get organized

The caregiver should keep all travel documents. Keep them organized and in a designated place with you at all times. Bring an “emergency bag” that contains:

  • Extra I.D. bracelets
  • Emergency contact phone numbers
  • Medication and medical information
  • Recent photos
  • Copies of important documents

Be sure to take along enough medications, snacks, incontinence supplies, and other personal care items.

Inform your destinations that you are traveling with someone with dementia. Check with TSA to see if there may be accommodations for screening if someone has dementia if you are flying.

2. Plan ahead

Plan activities that allow for frequent rest periods and “hygiene breaks” for caregivers and loved ones. Take into consideration your family members’ usual schedule or daily routine. If they are best in the mornings, plan activities at that time; those with behaviors such as sundowning may benefit from quiet rest periods later in the day.

A rigorous, fast-paced schedule may be overwhelming, especially for those moving toward moderate stages of the disease. If your loved one becomes over-tired, agitation and confusion may increase. Better to have a short period of activity that’s joyous instead of an arduous, frustrating schedule.

Try to keep plane flights, layover times, and tight connections to a minimum. Too much waiting or long flight times (more than 4 hours) can result in frustration for the loved one and caregiver. While it’s a good idea to arrive at the airport with plenty of time, ensure it’s not too much time.

Talk with your medical provider about traveling to see if they have suggestions regarding PRN medications that may be helpful.

3. Take extra help

It may be necessary to bring additional caregivers along, especially for those with advanced memory loss. Some people plan “family vacations” where they each take turns caring for the loved one with dementia.

If additional supervision from family and friends isn’t possible, plan to hire one to two people to come along. One person providing senior care is not enough. Plan on having extra help for things such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Combative behaviors
  • Incontinence issues

4. Make lasting memories

Take lots of pictures and share them with your loved one during rest breaks. If your loved one has short-term memory loss, they may not recall the activities you’ve experienced. Pictures of them having a great time with those they love help remind and validate that they are a valued part of the travel experience.

5. Test traveling with a dementia parent or spouse first

Try a short trip as a trial to see how your loved one responds. A day trip to a local park, museum, or public garden can help you identify potential challenges before making concrete travel plans.

If you’re considering traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, rest assured that there are many benefits and hurdles. Remember the importance of routine, social interaction, and mental stimulation when planning your trip. With careful planning, you can create a positive experience for everyone involved.

Do your research in advance and have realistic expectations.


About Dr. Petersen and Memory Care

Dr. Petersen inspired the Connections program for memory care. Her road to recovery from a stroke involved neuroplasticity therapy.

Pegasus Senior Living residents with memory loss are experiencing an improved quality of life through data-driven movement, learning, and socialization.

Discover relief from being a caretaker to a loved one with dementia. Find and contact a Connections memory care program near you.

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