Travel Safety Tips for People with Dementia


November 13, 2021

Sometimes people with dementia need to travel; especially during the holidays. 

With about 1 in 9 Americans over age 45 reporting “subjective cognitive decline” or memory loss that impairs daily life, dementia is a growing reality for many families. The national Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 11% of Americans age 65 or older have Alzheimer’s dementia, a number expected to more than double by 2050. Its website has several tips for traveling, as do AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance.

As any seasoned caregiver can tell you, people with dementia react poorly to any change in location or routine. People with dementia are confused about everything, including where they are, so traveling is an additional cognitive challenge for them and their caregivers. If you want to take a road trip, consider a single, specific destination and keeping stops for the restroom and food to a minimum.

To start, these sites recommend two things: honestly assess your companion’s ability to travel, and make sure they are carrying or wearing some kind of identification in case you get separated. The sites also make it clear that your experience will vary depending on the status of your companion’s disease.

Going to the Restroom

Parents, especially single parents, deal with this all the time. It’s more complicated with adults especially if they are not the same sex. Unisex family restrooms are helpful but rare. By now they should be the norm in all U.S. rest stops, department stores, and other public spaces. Should be but aren’t, for reasons economic, political, or simply due to ignorance. “All-gender restrooms solve so many problems, for people who can’t use a toilet by themselves”, said Tim Pyle, executive director of the American Restroom Assn., which advocates for public unisex toilets. Moreover, Pyle said the cost savings of building unisex facilities instead of traditional single-gender restrooms is significant. And six unisex, disabled-accessible toilets take up 25% less space than building separate three-stall restrooms for men and women, according to the association’s architects. 

Accommodation Considerations

Reserve your room in advance and know what the access is. If the room opens to a parking lot be sure to bar the door so your care recipient doesn’t leave in the middle of the night. Put a chair or bulky item in front of the door to alert you. A bag of crunchy/crinkly snacks works well. Or even jingle bells on the door knob.

If your hotel doesn’t have room service, check takeout options before you arrive (note closing times) and then have your meal delivered to your hotel.

General Tips

  • Bring a companion or helper
    • this can make all the difference and will allow you to have private bathroom trips.
  • Pack familiar items 
    • favorite playlists, blanket, etc. 
  • Keep the trips as self-contained and well-planned as possible
    • Choose your route in advance and know where you will be staying. 
  • Choose a single destination if possible
    • Plan to get there as quickly as possible with minimal side-trips
  • Don’t be shy about explaining your situation and asking for help
    • Most rest stop and hotel managers understand what dementia is and are happy to help, especially if it will prevent a “scene” in their establishment. 
Reference/Read the full article here: 

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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