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Holiday travel and disrupted routines can be hard for people with Alzheimer's. Get tips that can help

In this episode of "Health Fusion," Viv Williams shares tips from the American Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota-North Dakota on how to make holiday travel and disrupted routines less difficult.

Help make holiday travel with loved ones who have Alzheimer's disease less hectic by planning ahead.
Contributed / Pixabay

ROCHESTER — One of the reasons the holiday movie "Home Alone" is so memorable is that just about everybody can relate to it. The opening scenes show how one family plus aunts, uncles and cousins stay together the night before a European vacation in order to wake up and make an early morning flight. But things get so discombobulated, wild and hectic that they leave the youngest family member behind. It's funny, yet uncomfortable in the movie, as the situation would be horrifying if it happened in real life.

All joking aside, holiday travel and disrupted routines can be super hectic for anybody. And if one of the travelers is impacted by Alzheimer's disease, piling in the car for holiday gatherings may be even more challenging. But you may be able to reduce some of the stress by planning ahead. The Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter has tips that can help.

“We want to provide these travel tips so that everyone is able to enjoy their holidays, including people living with dementia and their families,” said Susan Parriott, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter. “Planning ahead can dramatically reduce stress and confusion, and provide a joyous time for all.”

Holiday travel tips.

  • Planes, trains, cars and buses: Choose the mode of transportation based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences. Choose what would be most comfortable and cause the least amount of stress.
  • Keep destinations simple: Complicated or elaborate plans may increase stress, anxiety and confusion. Consider places with easy access to emergency health services and pharmacies. 
  • Keep instructions simple: Don't overschedule or overload people with too much information or details.
  • Keep travel essentials close: Keep medications, up-to-date medical information, emergency contacts and photocopies of important documents in your carry-on baggage. Have plenty of water and snacks.
  • Brief your host: Make sure people you're staying with know the situation. If you're staying in a hotel, consider letting staff know in case you need help while you're there.
  • Keep loved ones close: New places can cause anxiety and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. These events can also trigger wandering. Monitor loved ones closely, especially in crowded, unfamiliar places. 

If you need information or support during the holidays or any time, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.



Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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