Holiday travel is always a highly energized event with the inevitable last-minute rush to either hit the road or get to a busy airport on time.
All the excitement can bring with it significant stress levels for anyone caught up in the holiday rush. You can imagine how all this hustle and bustle affects an individual with cognitive challenges, such as dementia. Perhaps you’ve already experienced it with a loved one.
While nothing can completely eliminate the anxiety of leaving the safe haven of home for travel for an individual with dementia, there are ways to turn the volume down on stress. And that goes for yourself as well!
Here are some helpful tips that our Anthem Memory Care community families have found useful over the years:
If you’re traveling by car:
- Plan a rest stop or two. Depending on the length of your drive, you may need several stops. Check out your mapping app, such as Google Maps, and scout ahead for rest places.
- Put some music on! It’s easy these days to load music on your smart phone or grab a few holiday CDs for the road. Music is a form of therapy all its own. Sing along, while you’re at it! It will make the trip go smoother and seem shorter.
- Bring along familiar items. That might be your loved one’s favorite blanket, pillow or other familiar items, which can go a long way towards keeping stress and anxiety to a minimum.
- Take safety precautions. Make sure your door locks are on and seatbelt connectors covered, especially if your loved one has a habit of wandering and/or unlocking doors.
If you’re headed to the airport:
- Take advantage of special services for those with disabilities. That’s what they’re there for! You may be able to secure a spot on an airport scooter as well as access wheel chairs or other aids that will make your loved one’s experience easier and more comfortable.
- Get to the airport early! This is always a good idea, especially over the holidays. With a little patience you can find areas that are less cluttered and wait there with your loved one.
- Pack snacks and water. Hunger and thirst can come on quickly, especially when one is feeling anxious or stressed. Make sure you bring favorite snacks and bottled water.
- Take advantage of early boarding for those with disabilities. Window seats can be a good move for an individual with dementia in that they can feel less constricted and further away from the busy aisle.
Remember, before you travel to make sure your loved one has a good night’s sleep and, if possible, has a good meal before you leave. We realize that this can be more challenging if you have an early morning flight. However, keeping as close as possible to a normal routine in the hours prior to leaving can go a long way towards reducing unnecessary stress.
Finally, some advice to you: When things get stressful, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the travel experience is temporary. Try to remain focused on the days ahead and welcome visits with family and friends. They can be an amazing source of support for both your loved one and you.
(The top image is of two lovely residents of Harvester Place Memory Care in Burr Ridge, Illinois out and about, enjoying one of many wonderful bus trips taken this last year.)