Traveling can be a chore when caregiving
Preparing for travel is an absolute!
Today we expect public transit help provide services to meet our needs. Regardless of our needs or those (as caregivers) and the person, we support. Add to this travel the person has dementia, whether to a medical appointment or across the country to a vacation spot. I believe today most people have an understanding of what dementia is, right or wrong is not of concern to this article.
Whether we like it or not it is essential we learn to use it.
Most people traveling with a person having dementia will opt for the quickest and least disruptive conveyance. In over forty years traveling and the amount services available to the party. And although the newer services are meant to be helpful for the community and caregivers; require tremendous amounts of money while achieving the state of art services. Please remember the tone this paragraph has set up to this time. Training of the employees for whichever type of travel (airplane, bus, train, automobile Ok you are getting the picture).
Be aware of problems before they are right in front of us.
If there is a trip in your future, this article will add some insight to your preparations. First, when traveling with a person having dementia consider the option of loading first. It is understandable to give thought regardless which means of travel is your choice. Picture this, waiting to get on a flight out of a large nameless international airport is an elderly couple waiting to board a flight. The gentleman is very courteous to those around them due to his knowledge of how distressing a greater numbers of people are waiting to board the plane. There is an announcement of ‘anyone requiring assistance and unaccompanied minors to please come to the front of the line prepared for boarding. The elderly gentleman is considered this when a well-meaning employee came up to them and began to help them, board. At this point, the lady starts asking who is that person (the employee) and what are they doing. Patiently the gentleman begins softly and with her full attention explaining the person is just here to help. All the way down the ramp there is a continual explanation of the nice person helping. Now onboard the explanation of the seating no matter how well put only sets in motion a misguided conversation which will continue until the other passengers begin boarding. The situation escalates as people come into the plane, what had been a very nice, softly spoken lady morphs into a loud, screaming, possessive person not wanting others on the aircraft. Rising from her seat numerous times to tell them it is hers and the should leave right now (this was not a soft spoken older lady. And once the plane lands she is totally confused not understanding where she is. Wanting to leave the luggage claim area presumably because she does not remember or know what those things are spitting out luggage. Now, this poor husband has become completely stressed out. They have arrived at a location some miles from home He must convince her to get on a bus and then not get off at every stop.
The situation above describes only one side of the concern. Just reverse the characters and have this be a man who is confused or demented. Many will assume he is stronger and when getting agitated could harm her or a stranger. Therefore, they will try to help, which only escalates a bad situation to a traumatic one.
Travel to a medical appointment can also be a struggle. Although the person with the disease may have attended numerous appointments with this doctor, there will be times when the behavior is totally outrageous. Imagine if you will, a person (male or female) being taken to a room away from the person feel comfortable with and told to disrobe. The words 'remove your clothing' is said with a higher pitch and eyebrows raised. And just to sure you can see what is coming, the person with dementia throws off the gown (which by the way is only a paper gown) and runs from the office. Yes runs from the setting with little or no clothes on.
People with dementia have 'their' sense of reality. They are not delusional or crazy. They are living in the past that we may or may not understand. And their explanation of this problem maybe is conveyed in a sentence with misspoken words. Other people tend to expect their concept of reality and don’t try to find the right words or actions the person is to convey. Picture, an Assisted Living, if you will and very sweet little old lady at the nursing desk in the middle of the night asking them to get the ‘birds’ out of her room. No hysterics she is just making a need heard. When the staff can in some instances make this happen at other times, it is simply not going to happen. Finally, a dementia care specialist is asked to assess the situation. There are restful nights for several days, and then the situation is in full swing again. Looking at the parson’s room, checking the rooms on either side and again speaking with the person does not seem to help. Well until discovering the culprit to be the flashing lights of ambulances and firetrucks on the ceiling of her room (remember this is only at night) 'No Delusion' but rather a very clear explanation.
Looking for all the pitfalls cannot be done., however some we can prepare for.
The above information is only examples to help prepare for some of the challenges of traveling with a person that has Dementia. Only knowing this person can provide some of the answers as the trip begins and progresses to the last day. We are each up to this travel however some are just not of the right temperament for this type of caregiving. Please allow plenty of time, so there is no rushing between planes, trains or buses. Keep the atmosphere as calm as possible as excitement will in most cases escalate the stress for our person.