Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Nine Thanksgiving Travel Tips for Families Impacted by Dementia

(November 21, 2019) — As one of the busiest travel weekends of the year approaches — the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates more than 55 million travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend — the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing important tips to families traveling with someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness.

“A family trip to visit a loved one, friend, or favorite destination can be a great way to spend Thanksgiving, including for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO.  “Whether traveling near or far, there are preparations and adaptations family caregivers can make to help their loved one feel more comfortable and relaxed throughout the trip.”

AFA offers the following tips for family caregivers to consider:

  • Advise airlines and hotels that you’re traveling with someone who has memory impairment and inform them of safety concerns and special needs.
  • Inquire in advance with airports/train stations about security screening procedures.  This way, you can familiarize the person beforehand about what will happen at the checkpoint to reduce potential anxiety.
  • Plan the travel mode and timing of your trip in a manner that causes the least amount of anxiety and stress.  Account for the person and their needs when making arrangements; if they travel better at a specific time of day, consider planning accordingly.
  • Preserve the person’s routine as best as possible, including eating and sleeping schedules. Small or unfamiliar changes can be overwhelming and stressful to someone with dementia.
  • Take regular breaks on road trips for food, bathroom visits, or rest.
  • Bring snacks, water, activities and other comfort items (i.e., a blanket or the person’s favorite sweater), as well as an extra, comfortable change of clothing to adapt to climate changes.
  • Consider utilizing an identification bracelet and clothing tags with your loved one’s full name and yours to ensure safety.
  • Take important health and legal-related documentation, a list of current medications, and physician information with you.
  • Depending on the trip duration and/or the stage of the person’s illness, consult with their physician to make sure travel is advisable.

Families with questions about traveling with someone who has a dementia-related illness can speak with a licensed social worker by calling AFA’s Helpline at 866-232-8484 or clicking here.  The helpline is open seven days a week.