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Can my loved one with dementia travel?

Can my loved one with dementia travel?

Many people enjoy travel for recreation, relaxation or a new experience. Those who enjoy traveling, include caregivers of persons with dementia (PWD). Travel can pose special problems for person with dementia. Hence it can be a challenge for the PWD and the caregiver. 
Doubts such as can we take a holiday with our loved one PWD? Perhaps a holiday will help him? Can we go overseas-long distance?
There are many reasons to travel:-
  • Visit home town
  • Visit children
  • Umrah
  • Medical tourism
  • Leisure and more other reasons
Here are some tips that i have learnt:-

We must have careful well-informed planning


  • Previous trips, did it went well?
  • Have a practice journey by car eg. 4-5 hours and stay away
  • Plan journey carefully
  • Ensure PWD that they know where to go
  • is it any toilet nearby?

You must consider

  • PWD’s limitation & strength?
    • Whether person can manage the trip
    • More advanced dementia-more difficult travel will be
    • If relatively independent & care for themselves is better
    • BPSD-  difficult to travel
    • Assistance with ADL-difficult to travel
  • Where are you going?
    • To determine most efficient method of travel
  • How long is the trip?
    • Prolonged travel with many destination or tours can be disruptive
  • Where will you be staying
    • If travel with relatives or friends do they understand dementia?
    • If you are staying at hotel – you must know the exists and amenities.
  • What will you doing when you get there?
  • What resources such as to bring special things. For example,  wheelchair, can check variety of quality travel wheelchairs at
  • What can be done in case of emergency
  • Buy insurance in advance
  • Do you know the medical services in the travel place?


    • Use wheelchairs at airports
    • Take medication on board
    • Turn down hearing aids during take off noise
    • Sit near toilet if risk of incontinence or use diapers
    • Take adequate travel insurance include medical return

    It is not advise to travel went badly in these situations

    • Dementia was unrecognised or undiagnosed
    • Untreated BPSD
    • No travel advice give
    • Long haul by themselves
      Source: Perkins and Hancock

    Care giver related issues

    • Can you cope with it or not?
    • If you feel embarrassed when patient does something inappropriate
    • If care giver cannot adapt with new environments, then better don’t go.
    • If care giver does not do a good planning, good discussion
    • Think the trip to familiar places will be just like it used to be

    Avoid overnight travel 

    • For incontinence loved one is willing to wear diapers, then it is fine to travel overnight
    • If patient can’t recognise caregiver
    • Not listen to caregiver


    • Travel companions
    • General health advice-medication and how to use it
    • Itinerary suggestion
    • Reduce stimulation – go for more quite place
    • Don’t leave it too late/do you really want to go?
    • carry medical information/insurance
    • Try not to take sleeping pills
    • Do you preparation well

    The Flight

    • Plan for jet lag – 3 hours difference max is better. If have long haul, then find airline with stopovers, max travel is about 3-4 hours flight time
    • Travel during daylight is better
    • Plan for sleep at destination, stopovers, maybe take hypnotic.

    The Airline

    • Inform airline
    • Ask for help include wheelchair to avoid queues
    • Good to take business class

    Information should bring along

    • Carry ID
    • Doctor’s letter and clinical information
    • How to contact usual doctor via email, may be can bring pain killer.
    • Education for caregiver

     General health

    • Avoid dehydration
    • No alcohol
    • Have enough food

    Decision to go?

    • Is it worth it? For whose benefit is travel? Should PWD stay behind? You must be realistic when the PWD fits to go for travel.
    • Do it now/don’t travel with advanced dementia
    • Avoid if BPSD/mentally unstable
    • Avoid if physical unwell
    • Caregivers often exhausted by journey and PWD has forgotten most of it.
    • Request a rental car the same colour as the car at home


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