Many people are excited to travel by air, but someone who has dementia may find the experience overwhelming. Air travel is often necessary even with chronic and challenging health issues that could cause complications. The following tips will help loved ones plan a trip for a dementia patient with the help of an air medical escort.
Choose the Travel Method
In many cases, the person with dementia is being moved to a location closer to their children and other family members in order to receive better care. If the trip is long distance, flying may seem like the best option, but it may not be the easiest way to go. Driving is another choice that allows the family to avoid long airport security lines or the possibility of other passengers being disturbed by their loved one’s behavior. This quickly becomes impractical with numerous restroom stops, staying in motels and eating in noisy roadside restaurants. When all of this is considered, air travel becomes a necessity.
Traveling by Air
If traveling by air is the best choice, the following steps will help with preparation:
• Assistance. If the person has received a diagnosis of dementia, their ability to care for themselves will determine how much help they will require while traveling. When the person needs to be lifted, fed, taken to the toilet, requires medication or suffers from depression, anxiety or engages in aggressive behavior, professional assistance is the best choice.
• Equipment. If the individual uses a wheelchair, contacting the airline for wheelchair assistance will make the boarding process go more smoothly. When oxygen is required, a consent form will need to be signed by the person’s doctor and carried at all times during the trip. International travel requires approval for an oxygen tank at least 72 hours before departure.
• Assessment. Before hiring an air medical escort, it is important to consider familiarity with dementia and its process in the patient. Does the person recognize their family? Do they easily become confused and upset or present with other disturbing symptoms? If this is the case, it is best to let experienced personnel travel with the individual.
Ensuring a Successful Journey
Dementia behaviors often occur when a person is in an unfamiliar environment. Airports are often crowded and very noisy, which may be overstimulating to the patient. If a family has decided to travel without a professional medical escort, these tips will be helpful:
• Have an itinerary. This should have all flight and contact information on a smartphone or a piece of paper for accessibility.
• Bring a carry-on with essentials. Medications, body wipes, a change of clothes and favorite activities should be in this bag. Check with the TSA regarding requirements for feeding supplementation and liquid medications.
• Arrange for wheelchair assistance. Most airlines need 48 hours of notice when a passenger requires a wheelchair.
• Allow for extra time at every stage. If possible, avoid flights that require changing planes. When a connection must be made, ensure there is enough time to move between gates. Using the restroom, feeding the person and administering medication may also be necessary and should be factored into connection time.
• Never leave the person alone. Dementia patients become easily confused and afraid or may even wander off. Loved ones should stay by their side for the entire trip. Scheduling the journey during the person’s best hours can help avoid these challenges.
• Inform the hotel. When staying overnight in a hotel, let the staff know about the loved one’s needs ahead of time. This will ensure the establishment is prepared to deal with any situation that might occur due to dementia.
When travel with a dementia patient is imminent, Medical Transport Services is always standing by to assist with experienced, certified medical professionals to help a loved one reach their destination safely. Visit the website for more information about air medical escort services or call 800-687-0607 for a free quote.