Travel and holidays
While the situation of every person with dementia is different, for those who are in a position to take a break, it can offer huge benefits for both the person with dementia and their loved ones. The benefits include keeping the brain active by exploring new places and activities, maintaining social stimulation and making new friends, and enjoying physical activity such as walking, cycling or swimming. Planning is, of course, vital when it comes to going away. The following tips will offer some useful guidance and support in ensuring that a trip is safe, comfortable and, most of all, enjoyable.
Top 10 travel tips for people with Dementia and their families
- Choose the right destination and bring company: it’s always more enjoyable to share experiences, so bring a family member or friend. The experience of dementia is different for everyone to take into account the person and how they are affected when deciding on a location. If the person with dementia doesn’t find unfamiliar places disorienting, then going to a new destination may actually challenge the brain in a positive way.
- Book the best travel time. Travel at the time of day that is best for the person with dementia. If flying, consider booking fast-track boarding to minimise stress, and avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections.
- Get help. Ask about assistance services at your departure and arrival points and book at least 48 hours in advance. For example, Dublin Airport has a ‘meet and assist’ programme so that you can get assistance during your journey through the airport. Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an attendant can help. If flying, depending on the airline, you may be able to do this when booking your seats online.
- Call ahead and research local supports. If staying in a hotel, inform the staff ahead of time of any specific needs so that they can be prepared to assist you. If you will be at a location for an extended period of time, consider contacting the local dementia service for resources and support.
- Check your medical cover: if you’re visiting another European Union or European Economic Area country, make sure to have a valid European Health Insurance Card or EHIC (formerly E111 form). This allows access to health care services in those countries, however, there may be additional charges. If you have private health insurance, check your cover abroad. If you are taking out travel insurance, be aware that some policies may not cover those who have a ‘pre-existing medical condition’, or there may be an additional premium, so it’s always wise to read the small print and to shop around.
- Pack an “essentials” day bag. Pack a small travel bag that includes the travel itinerary, medications, a comfortable change of clothes, water, and snacks. Keep some cash handy for taxis and other travel needs. Include an important documents folder so that you can have easy-to-hand documents such as passport, travel details, insurance policy, contact information for friends, family and GP, a list of current medications and dosages, and details of food or drug allergies. Make sure to share your itinerary with emergency contacts at home.
- Give yourself time. Set off on your journey early, giving plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen delays, such as traffic or queues.
- Be prepared for security screening. If travelling to an airport, remind the person what is involved and consider advising the agent at security that the person has dementia.
- Using facilities. Check if there are accessible toilets, changing facilities or private rooms available to help make your journey as easy as possible.
- Checking out. If departure is not taking place until later in the day, for extra comfort why not consider asking for a late check-out or see if the hotel might offer a half-day rate if you need to stay longer than a couple of hours.
Download: Top 10 Travel Tips for People with Dementia and their Families factsheet
People who have been diagnosed with dementia are not automatically excluded from driving. However, there are a few steps to take: - you must inform your insurance company or you may not be insured - you must inform the National Driving Licence Service - you must take an ‘on road’ driving assessment.
Over time, dementia does affect a person’s ability to drive safely and you may need to consider giving up driving.