Tips on Traveling With Someone With Parkinson's Disease
- Pack all meds and an ID card stating that the person you are with has Parkinson's in your carry-on bag. (These are available from APDA and NPF.) Carry-on luggage should also contain health insurance cards, doctors' names and phone numbers, and a collapsible cup for water so pills can be easily taken when needed. Some airlines and cruise lines require an authorization letter from a physician stating that persons with significant disability are fit to travel.
- Carry a supply of snacks and a carton of drinks for the person to have when taking medication.
- If you take a long trip, the person with Parkinson's should rest on the day before leaving and the day after arriving. It will also help if the person drinks plenty of fluids on the days before and after traveling. This will allow the person to drink less on the day of travel and reduce the number of visits to the bathroom.
- If traveling for a longer period, ask the primary doctor for the name of a neurologist in the place you are going to visit. If there is a time change at your destination, medications should be taken as prescribed, with the same number of hours between doses.
- If traveling abroad, check the person's medical insurance to ensure that there is coverage in the event medical treatment is needed.
- Pace the itinerary so the person with Parkinson's does not get overtired and immobile. It is a good idea to plan no more than one or two special events each day. Don't start the days too early. Allow extra time for dressing, eating, and walking in unfamiliar settings.
- Cruises are often ideal vacations for someone with Parkinson's. The schedule is leisurely, handicapped cabins are available, and it avoids multiple hotel changes common to other tour groups. There are many onboard activities the person with Parkinson disease can enjoy without your supervision. Some regional Parkinson organizations and support groups sponsor cruise groups for Parkinson patients and their caregivers.
- For American citizens traveling abroad, it helps to know how to contact American Citizen Services (ACS) in the offices of U.S. embassies and consulates. They can help with referrals to local doctors, dentists, and hospitals, and guide you through the maze of regulations if there is a death or medical emergency while visiting their country.
- Consider travel adventures closer to home. Exotic foreign destinations often come with numerous challenges for persons with gait and balance problems. Choose flights no longer than 3 hours. Allow a full day each way just for getting there and getting home. Car travel is the most flexible of all vacations, allowing you to choose your own schedule, daily agenda, and bathroom and snack breaks to meet the needs of your person with Parkinson's. Hopefully, you've already obtained a handicapped parking permit for easy access when traveling.
NOTE: Take more carbidopa/levodopa than the care receiver uses at home on his usual schedule and routine. Extra doses may be required to handle the demands of being away.
- Take advantage of early boarding privileges, where available. Check in early and request an aisle seat close to the toilet if mobility is a problem.
- Do not hesitate to request a wheelchair or electric cart to get to and from the plane. This will help cut down on the overall fatigue of air travel.