Summer Travel Tips: A Guide for Caregivers Traveling with Family Members Living With Alzheimer’s
By Jaime Anderson, RN, VP of Healthcare, Autumn Leaves, LIVING WELL Magazine
Getting away on vacation is a wonderful way to share quality family time, visit friends and extended family or just take a break from daily routines. For caregivers traveling with family members living with Alzheimer’s, planning ahead and being prepared can ensure that your vacation is full of rest, relaxation and fun for you and your loved one.
Before leaving, visit your loved one’s primary care physician to get necessary prescription refills and discuss recommendations about activities that should be avoided. You should also ask about contact information for a local physician in the areas you plan to visit. Before you leave, compile a medical information kit for your family member that includes,
- current insurance and prescription benefit cards
- a medical history outline
- a list of all current medications
- a list of medicines and fo
ods to which your loved one is allergic
Tip: Before you begin your vacation, research each location you plan to visit and map out nearby hospitals and police stations in case of an emergency.
As you begin to evaluate potential vacation destinations, make sure there are interesting and appropriate activities to participate in for both you and your loved one. As you review available activities, consider your loved one’s usual behavior patterns and energy levels around certain times of the day. If the afternoon is usually a time when a calm environment or low-key activity works best for your family member, don’t plan a late event that involves a busy location or a lot of interaction, which could lead to behavioral difficulties if your loved one’s system becomes overwhelmed. Remember that traveling can be tiresome for anyone and is especially true for someone living with memory impairment. Both you and your loved one will get the most out of your planned activities if you work around what is best for their body rhythms and normal activity schedule.
Tip: Always be sure to drink plenty of water, eat several light meals including fruits for snacks and avoid caffeine.
Wandering is always a potential risk for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and traveling to an unfamiliar place can increase this hazard for your loved one. Once you are on the road, there are a number of things you can do to keep them secure and to minimize their risk of wandering. Have your family member wear a bracelet or pendant that includes their name and the words “memory impaired.” Inside your loved one’s wallet or purse, include a wallet-sized laminated card that lists their name and your name with the best phone number where you can be reached. If you are staying in a hotel, try to reserve rooms on the ground floor and ask for adjoining rooms or share one that has double beds. Make sure to let hotel staff know that your loved one is memory impaired and provide them your emergency contact information so they can reach you at any time in case a wandering or other incident occurs.
Tip: Remember to take night-lights with you for use throughout your room.
Lastly, for any vacation you go on with your loved one, make sure to take appropriate wardrobe selections. Try to include sandals and shoes that have rubber soles, get good traction and fasten securely – avoid flip-flops when possible. Also, make sure to dress your loved one in light layers so you can adjust the amount of clothing easily to any changes in outside temperature or weather.
The most important thing to remember when going on vacation is to have fun and enjoy time spent with your family member. Together, you and your loved one can share a road to adventure, creating new memories along the way that will last a lifetime.