How To Travel With Alzheimer's Disease


Embarking on a journey during the holiday season can be a stressful experience, especially when you’re traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

As a caregiver, your top priority is ensuring the safety of your loved one while planning a trip that promises a positive and joyful experience for your entire family. But even in the best of circumstances, holiday travel is chaotic. Crowded airports, delayed flights, and traffic congestion all contribute to sensory overload in the person with Alzheimer’s.

Holiday travel with a loved one who has dementia also presents unique challenges. To help you navigate this complex situation, the professional caregivers at Serenades Memory Care have compiled six expert strategies to help ease travel anxiety associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Plan For the Unknown

If you are planning a trip, it’s important to prepare yourself for the possibility of unforeseen circumstances and to remain patient and flexible when they do arise. Be sure to make all your travel reservations in advance and create a contingency plan that allows you to leave early if your loved one gets sick or overwhelmed.

Before setting off on your trip, take time to thoughtfully plan each step of your journey while making your loved one’s needs a priority. This may mean making time for frequent stops and bathroom breaks. Familiarity reduces anxiety, confusion, and disorientation commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, so avoid activities and situations that cause your loved one added anxiety. Additionally, ensure that your final destination offers a calm and quiet environment to minimize sensory stimulation.

  1. Maintain Routine and Structure

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease thrive on routine and structure. To minimize stress, make an effort to honor your loved one’s regular activities and routine as much as possible throughout your trip. This includes maintaining continuity in their daily schedule, such as eating at the same time they normally would, and ensuring they have ample rest and sleep. Sticking to a routine can help prevent unwanted symptoms and behaviors associated with dementia.

  1. Pack Important Documents

While it’s tempting to procrastinate packing, when traveling with Alzheimer’s disease, take the time to organize essential travel items early to reduce anxiety. Compile a comprehensive medical file containing important documents such as identification, medical records, emergency contacts, and a list of prescribed medications with dosages and timings. Remember to bring an adequate supply of medication for the entire trip as well as a few extra days in case of any delays. Finally, be sure to have a backup plan for obtaining refills at your travel destination.

  1. Pack a Nightlight

Assisted living memory care communities like Serenades Memory Care feature special lighting and visual cues to help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia find their way easier. It is one of many architectural features used by “purpose-built” memory care communities to assist with wayfinding and regulate mood.

Traveling with a nightlight is a great solution for lighting dark rooms and hotels, and can help your loved one with Alzheimer’s navigate their way to the toilet, reducing the possibility of falls. The best ones have LED lights and motion sensors. Remember to avoid candles, as they can pose a safety hazard.

  1. Wear Identification

Wandering is a common symptom among individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease. While manageable at home, this common symptom adds an extra layer of worry and travel anxiety when you’re on the move. Be sure to carry a photo of your loved one in case they become separated from you and consider ordering a medical ID device for added support and protection. Wearable devices are available online or through the Alzheimer’s Association.

Learn more about MedicAlert devices, including bracelets, necklaces and other accessories.

  1. Minimize Travel Time

 Reducing travel time is always a wise choice, though it may not always be easy. If your budget allows, opt for direct flights to alleviate stress associated with connecting flights and multiple changes. Road trips and long hours in a car can be uncomfortable for individuals with and without dementia, but air travel can be particularly challenging due to flight times, security checks, and airport noise. Some airports have been designated as dementia-friendly, offering special lanyards to discreetly identify those in need of extra help or special treatment during travel.

A group called Dementia-Friendly Airports Working Group has introduced recommendations to improve security screening and create a designation for airports that feature special protocols aimed at improving travel assistance to people with hidden disabilities like Alzheimer’s disease.

Planning Travel With Alzheimer’s Disease

In some cases, it may be best to avoid airline travel completely. It goes without saying, the more advanced the disease, the more challenging travel will be for you and your loved one. Dementia care experts recommend avoiding overnight travel for those experiencing more advanced symptoms.

Remember, it’s natural to feel a sense of loss during the holidays when a loved one is struggling with memory loss. This holiday season may be different, but staying focused on the positive moments can help you create a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season.

Travel with Alzheimer’s: Resources and Support For Alzheimer’s Disease

If you’re seeking additional support and resources for Alzheimer’s care, consider reaching out to an assisted living memory care community like Serenades Memory Care. Memory care communities provide care in a safe and supportive environment, offering 24-hour supervision by dementia-certified caregivers. Plus, fall and winter are often the best time to move to an assisted living community.

Remember that as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the level of care your loved one requires may exceed what can be provided at home and prevent future travel. Memory care communities can help you recognize the signs of caregiver burnout and provide the support you need. With the right resources and care, your loved one can continue to lead a fulfilling and dignified life.

Schedule a visit to a Serenades Memory Care community to learn more.


Visit Serenades and find out how a person-centered approach to care has allowed us to continually raise the standard in memory care assisted living.