Home YOU ASK - WE ANSWER Is it OK to Travel With an Alzheimer's Patient?
Is it OK to Travel With an Alzheimer's Patient? PDF Print E-mail

Q: My 83-year-old husband has been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He’s otherwise healthy so far, but after years of jogging every morning, he’s become confused several times, and kindly neighbors have escorted him home. We’ve been invited to spend a week in Palm Springs with friends who own a two-bedroom timeshare with a community pool. After one of the coldest winters on record here in Minnesota, I know we’d both love the warm desert climate. However, I’m afraid if he insists on jogging there, he may get lost or worse. On the other hand, I can’t leave him home without someone to be with him 24 hours a day for the week.

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I know you’ve had experience with all kinds of senior travelers, including those with handicaps. Can you help me make up my mind?

A: We’ve had many situations where senior travelers need advice, including those traveling with companions suffering from Alzheimer’s. Frankly, we believe you’d be troubled mostly from guilt if you left your husband at home. So, maybe that settles the yes or no question.

First tell his primary care doctor what you plan to do. If he gives you a definite no, take his advice and arrange care for your husband. You said he’s in the early stages of the disease, so we assume he can fairly well take care of his daily needs. Ask a relative to volunteer or hire a sleep-in companion for the week to keep watch over your husband at all times.

However, if the doctor says OK, and we suspect he will, you should make the necessary contacts to ease the way. Call the airline and tell about your needs, possibly including wheelchair, security requirements, early boarding, an escort if you must change planes and other concerns. When in the airport, stick close to your husband at all times, including standing by the door when he’s in bathrooms, both in the terminal and aboard aircraft.

When you’ve made all travel plans, call your friends in Palm Springs and give them your airline schedule. If they can’t pick you up, ask them to arrange a cab or limo to be there when you arrive. Additionally, take more than a week’s supply of your husband’s medications, along with phone numbers of his doctors. Assuming your friends in Palm Springs are also seniors, ask them for numbers of local doctors who specialize in geriatrics, as well as information about local emergency services.

And, of course, good luck and have an enjoyable visit to Palm Springs.

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