NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — With one of the busiest times of the year fast approaching, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is offering tips to help families traveling with a loved one with a dementia-related illness make their trip as smooth and comfortable as possible.

According to a news release, an estimated 54.6 million Americans are planning to travel more than 50 miles during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and the normal challenges of travel are amplified for someone living with a dementia-related illness, which is why families need to be proactive and prepare,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president and CEO. “Regardless of how far you’re traveling, taking a few simple steps in advance can go a long way to making the trip easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for everyone.” 

Before the trip:

  • Make sure travel is advisable
    • Someone in the early stages of dementia may still enjoy traveling, but as the disease progresses, it may become too overwhelming.
    • Depending on the trip duration and/or the stage of the person’s illness, consult with the physician to make sure travel is advisable.
  • Plan around the person’s abilities
    • 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, their abilities, and needs when making arrangements; if they travel better at a specific time of day, consider planning accordingly.
  • Preserve the person’s routine
    • Small or unfamiliar changes can be overwhelming and stressful to someone with dementia, so to the greatest extent possible, preserve the person’s routine.
    • For example, if they normally eat around a certain time, build that into the itinerary.
  • Stock up before leaving
    • 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.
    • Take important health and legal-related documentation, a list of current medications, and physician information with you.

If traveling by mass transit:

  • Know the security procedures
    • 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.
    • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can offer assistance with the screening process to air travelers with certain medical conditions, including dementia-related illnesses; contact their TSA Cares Helpline at least 72 hours prior to your flight to learn more.
  • Advise the airline
    • Let the airline know that you’re traveling with someone who has memory impairment and inform them of safety concerns and special needs.

If traveling by car:

  • Build in break times
    • Take regular breaks on road trips for food, bathroom visits, and rest.

Families with questions about traveling with someone who has a dementia-related illness can speak with a licensed social worker through the AFA Helpline by phone (866) 232-8484, text message (646) 586-5283, or via web chat.

The helpline is available seven days a week.