I’d like to get away this winter to visit family, but my husband is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and I’m not sure how to manage the logistics. What can I do to make it less stressful for both of us?
There are steps you can take while you’re planning your trip as well as while you’re traveling. As you consider your choices, the two most important factors to keep in mind are your husband’s level of functioning and whether your choice will reduce your stress.
Before you go:
• Choose options most likely to provide comfort and least likely to cause distress. If your husband wanders, you may want to choose to travel from a less-convenient airport that offers a nonstop flight. If crowds or a lot of rushing make him agitated, you may opt to travel from a smaller airport, even though that means changing planes.
• If appropriate, alert airline and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff ahead of time. People with disabilities, including cognitive impairment, are not exempt from screenings, but TSA offers accommodations to make the process less stressful. TSA also maintains a help line that assists travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. If you have questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint, call TSA Cares toll-free at 1-855-787-2227, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST, and weekends and holidays 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST. Make a note to call about three days before you travel to allow time to coordinate any services or support with a TSA Customer Service Manager at the airport.
• Create a detailed itinerary that includes addresses and phone numbers of where you’ll be staying, as well as the dates you’ll be at each location. Keep a copy and give one to your husband to keep in his wallet. Create a second document with information about medications (including names and dosage instructions). Give copies of both to emergency contacts at home and at your destination.
• Be sure to update your phone contacts to include current medical personnel.
• As you pack in your carry-on, expand your definition of “essentials.” In addition to medication, pack a change of clothing appropriate to your destination, as well as snacks and activities. Bring extras of everything.
• Arrange for car service to the airport so you can avoid the shuttle from the parking garage to the terminal. Check your bags curbside, too.
• Allow extra time. Get to the airport early, and if you change planes (especially at a large or busy airport, or during holidays), schedule flights with at least a one-hour layover. If nothing else, you may need the time to convince your husband that the gate is down this hallway, not that one.
• Even if your husband is able to walk, consider requesting a wheelchair. Airport or airline staff will escort you from gate to gate, and it reduces the likelihood of wandering.
• Plan for respite. If you’re on vacation, be sure you get a break. Designate family members to help with certain tasks or to relieve you for an hour or so every day, or even to sit next to your husband at meals so you can catch up with relatives.