Can we travel with parents with dementia?

A fellow caregiver asked...

We'd like to take my parents to Hawaii, their favorite place in the whole world, one last time. They live in an assisted living facility, both have dementia, but they currently go out unescorted for walks. They are registered with Safe Return and we would bring a baby monitor. Can they stay in a condo adjacent to mine? Any advice or recommendations?

Expert Answer

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

The answer is...maybe. Traveling with someone who has dementia requires being aware of many different factors. You've already thought about wandering, for example, which is wise. The biggest factor is your parents' condition. They may do all right with care and supervision, especially if they function relatively independently now. However, travel -- especially long distances and by air -- can be a major stressor, and stress can worsen dementia. One or both of your parents may become confused, upset, or show more memory loss than previously. If you do go, be sure to have seats together on the plane and remain with your parents constantly. A separate hotel room is probably not the safest idea; a suite with only one door is ideal. Another consideration is your parents' reaction to such a trip: Do they seem genuinely excited? If they can't remember plans for such a vacation from visit to visit, it may be simpler to spend lower-key time closer to home with them. You have to weigh your expectations and memories for this kind of family trip with where they are now and how they might respond to it.