Holiday Travel Tips for Families Facing Alzheimer’s

Holiday travel can be hectic for just about everyone who does it, but it can be especially challenging for the 180,000 North Carolina residents living with Alzheimer’s. Even short trips to visit family and friends during the holidays can be stressful for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. While not all living with Alzheimer’s are able to travel, people living with early- and mid-stage Alzheimer’s often do want to attend family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Careful and thoughtful planning can help ensure safety, comfort and holiday enjoyment for everyone involved.

When planning your holiday destination, consider these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to provide for a more calming travel experience for someone living with Alzheimer’s:

  • Evaluate best mode of travel: Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety. If the destination requires air travel, the Alzheimer’s Association provides these tips here.
  • Pick a practical destination: Consider everyone’s needs and desires as you plan your trip and discuss the plan with the person living with dementia. Elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours may cause anxiety and confusion. And it is always important to consider destinations that have easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies.
  • Simplify your travel itinerary: Try not to overload the person with a lot of directions or too much information.
    • Carry with you an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to family members or friends you will be visiting or to emergency contacts at home.
    • Travel during the time of day that is best for the person. For example, if he or she becomes tired or more agitated in the late afternoon, avoid traveling at this time.
    • Allow plenty of time for rest and don’t over-schedule.
  • Keep travel necessities close: If traveling by air, keep necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important documents in your carry-on baggage. For longer car trips, make sure water and snacks are available.
  • Brief your host: If you are staying with family or friends, make sure everyone knows what to expect. If you will be staying in a hotel, consider informing the staff ahead of time of your specific needs so they can be prepared to assist you.
  • Be prepared: Environmental changes or new locations can cause anxiety and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. These events can also trigger wandering. Monitor your loved one closely for signs of stress or confusion. Keep them close to you in crowded, unfamiliar places.

“The holidays should be a fun and relaxing time for friends and family, including people living with dementia,” said Lisa Roberts, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Eastern North Carolina Chapter. “By keeping your loved one’s needs top of mind for all travel decisions can allow for less stress and confusion and provide a joyous time for all.”

More travel tips can be found by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Chapters in North Carolina offering free education programs and support groups to help all North Carolina caregivers and their families on topics like navigating the holidays. For a complete list or to register for upcoming programs, visit here.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, support for families and people living with the disease and information on the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, visit here or call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900. The helpline provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance, toll-free anytime, even holidays.

By Christine John-Fuller