Traveling with dementia is possible

 Just the phrase “traveling with dementia” brings on many, sometimes overwhelming, emotions — especially if you are the person responsible for making the decision and then going on the trip. Sadly, some may result in keeping the person with dementia from experiencing enjoyment and giving the caregiver very special good feelings.

There is so much that has been written about this complicated subject, and the information keeps constantly growing and is virtually never-ending, as more is discovered.

Just the fact that you are reading this indicates that you are at least considering traveling with a loved one or relative who has dementia. In most cases, a person with dementia can travel. But it’s up to you and others who make the decision if they should. This is the most difficult decision, and you should very carefully consider all the most important decisionmaking factors.

I don’t claim to have any new and exciting approach to this complicated subject, and I know that some of you have gotten information from the Internet, as I have, along with various organizations and conferences. That’s great. But what you can’t get anywhere are my years of personal experience.

Some things to ask yourself:

  •  Why do we want to do this? Do I really have my head screwed on straight???
  •  Have we done it before? How did it go? If not good, what went wrong? Can we overcome what went wrong? How will this trip be different from before?
  •  Consider physical challenges – stairs, wheelchair access.
  •  Financial considerations: Getting and staying there.
  •  Can we do this by ourselves? Who can come with us? Can we get help there? Will we invite friends?  Will they be help or just a comfort?

There will be a lot of soul-searching and honesty involved. Many persons with dementia become irrational and even abusive. You can’t manage the person in such a situation, and you can’t rationalize with someone who has lost their ability to be rational. In such a case, traveling will only do more harm than good, because it results in more frustration and confusion. Perhaps spending your energy, efforts and money making life at home as good as you can will be the wise decision.


David Westin, who wrote this areticle, was a basic 24-hours-a-day caregiver for his wife, Bette, who suffered dementia. They were assertive travelers, despite the considerable challenges they faced the last several years. They started a travel agency in 2000, so David has inside knowledge of the world of travel. He is available to talk on a one-to-one or family basis, and will also speak to organizations. His presentations this fall will be announced in Senior Scene.