Alzheimer's Association Offers Travel and Safety Tips For Caregivers

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An Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn't have to mean the end to adventure; tips from the Alzheimer's Association help caregivers create a comfortable, safe environment for someone with dementia whether traveling by car, plane or boat.

Preparation is the key for traveling with someone living with dementia. Travel companions who stay relaxed and calm themselves set the stage for a great trip.

Whether taking a short trip to see friends and family or traveling a far distance for vacation, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits of travel for a person with dementia. Sharing a trip whether close to home or in a far off destination offers time together that can be shared through photographs as the disease progresses. With careful planning and tips from the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, travel can still offer great adventure for those living with dementia as well as treasured memories for family and friends.

To ensure a positive, calm traveling experience for the person with dementia, there are several things caregivers can do. Avoid loud restaurants and places with a lot of people if the person is overly tired. Learn to recognize warning signs of anxiety and agitation. It is important for caregivers to move slowly, and to appear unhurried as well as to maintain composure. Do not overload the person with many directions or too much information. If behavior becomes difficult, do not attempt physical restraint. It may be better to step away or out of reach and monitor the person or call for help. Don’t take it personally. Speak calmly and do not become drawn into an argument. Redirection or distraction may be an effective way to diffuse anger or anxiety.

General Travel Guidelines

  •     Before any travel, enroll in MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with dementia that wander or who have a medical emergency. Notify MedicAlert + Safe Return of travel plans. To enroll call 888.572.8566.
  •     Travel to known destinations that involve as few changes in daily routine as possible. Visit places that were familiar before the onset of dementia.
  •     Evaluate options for the best mode of travel based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences.
  •     Avoid planning a trip where emergency health services and pharmacies to refill prescriptions are not easily accessible.
  •     Keep travel simple and manageable. Avoid elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours. Allow plenty of time for rest.
  •     Inform hotel staff ahead of time of any specific needs.
  •     Have a backup plan in case the trip changes unexpectedly. Consider purchasing trip insurance.
  •     Create an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to family or friends at the destination, to emergency contacts at home and keep one.
  •     Travel during the time of day that is best. For example, if agitation increases in late afternoon, travel in the morning.
  •     Carry a bag of essentials that includes medications, travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water (fill water bottles after airline security check), snacks and activities.
  •     Remember to pack necessary medications, up-to-date medical information, a list of emergency contacts and photocopies of important legal documents.
  •     Learn if there are services available at the destination by contacting the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, 800.272.3900 or online at

Special Considerations for Air Travel
Traveling in airports requires plenty of focus and attention. At times, the level of activity can be distracting, overwhelming or difficult for someone with dementia to understand.

For airplane travel, the Association offers the following tips:

  •     Avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections.
  •     Ask about airline escort services. Many allow someone without a ticket to accompany someone with a disability or health concerns through security to the gate. Do not leave the person with dementia to navigate a busy airport alone or the process of making a connecting flight.
  •     Tell airport personnel including the ticket agent and inflight crew that a traveling companion has special needs or specifically Alzheimer’s disease.
  •     Consider informing the TSA representative at the security checkpoint that a traveling companion is a person with dementia. Special screening can be arranged for passengers with disabilities. If selected for additional security measures, ask the TSA agent to keep travelers together.
  •     Consider first class tickets and the option of late boarding to help reduce stress.
  •     Board the plane first with those needing assistance. However, this can be a bad idea if a companion has a hard time sitting still OR might get upset by a lot of activity.
  •     Talk with a physician about using an anti-anxiety medication but try it in advance.
  •     Pack extra incontinence supplies and gloves as well as re-sealable bags in carry-on bags.
  •     Bring favorite music, headphones, pictures, fiddling or manipulative items.
  •     Once on the ground, be prepared to burn off stress by walking.
  •     Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair. Airport employees can help navigate busy airports more easily and quickly.
  •     Ask to ride the “people mover” from gate to gate to save time and reduce stress but be aware that the noise may cause distress and fear for someone with dementia.
  •     Wear matching BRIGHT colors to help identify companion in case they wander off.
  •     Take a photo with a digital camera or phone. Having a “real time” photo could be vital.
  •     Use the "family"' or "assistance" toilet facilities to keep a better eye/ear on the person with dementia at all times. Someone with dementia can quickly become totally lost in time and place.
  •     Suggest clothing without a belt, little or no jewelry and shoes that are easy to slip on and off for going through security.
  •     Arrange for a wheelchair or escort from the flight attendant so it meets the plane for connecting flights or for assistance to baggage claim.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers information and additional tips on general safety in the home and in the case of wandering on the website in the Safety Center within the new Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregivers Center. Additional online resources in the Caregivers Center include:

  •     AlzConnected-Message boards for caregivers and those living with the disease
  •     AlzNavigator-A tool to create customized action plans
  •     Caregiver Notebook-Tips for care and planning for the future
  •     Caregiver Stress Check-Take the quiz and receive personalized resources
  •     Care Training-Technique for developing new caregiving and coping skills
  •     Care Team Calendar-A way to organize family and friends who want to help
  •     TrialMatch-Program matching people with dementia and caregivers with clinical trials

For answers to questions about memory loss or support to care for someone with dementia, contact the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado 24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900 or online at

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Sara Spaulding
Alzheimer's Association of Colorado
+1 (303) 813-1669
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