January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. People with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty travelling as new environments or new routines may agitate them.
Whether a trip will be successful with an Alzheimer’s passenger will depend on how far he or she has progressed in their illness. Here are some steps that a caregiver or transport service provider can take in order to accommodate an Alzheimer’s or dementia passenger:
1. Figure out the best mode of travel: decide what would be the most comfortable way for the person to travel. Take familiar routes so that the person will be more at ease.
2. Avoid peak hours: avoiding peak hours will reduce stress for the driver and stimuli for the person.
3. Prepare the person in advance: let the person know that he/she will be getting into a vehicle to go somewhere. Do not overwhelm him/her with too much information.
4. Seat selection: have the person sit in the backseat as opposed to the front. This prevents him/her from grabbing the steering wheel while you are driving.
5. Have a bag of essentials: have a bag ready that includes medication, activities and a change of clothing. Have water and snacks ready as dehydration can worsen the person’s symptoms.
6. Play calming music: many people suffering from dementia find music soothing.
7. Never leave the person alone in the car: never leave a person suffering from dementia alone in the car.
8. Lock all doors: lock all doors that the person can have access to. Be sure that he/she cannot unlock the doors from their side. If available, use the child safety lock.
9. Make sure that the seat belt is buckled: always be sure the person is securely buckled in. If the person attempts to take off his/her seatbelt, turn the seatbelt inside out so that it is more difficult to get to the buckle.
10. Park on a flat surface: parking your vehicle on a flat surface will ensure that the person can exit safely. Make sure there are no icy patches or wet spots that the person can slip in.
Transporting a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia will require thoughtful planning. It will take getting used to. You will eventually find what works best for you to transfer the person safely to their destination.
*the steps listed serve merely as a guide. Always consult a health care professional if you are unsure of how to transfer a passenger with Alzheimer’s and dementia.