Travel tips for those with dementia and their families

Thinking of a break or weekend getaway? Ahead of the summer holiday season, the Dementia: Understand Together campaign highlights some travel tips for helping ease anxiety for those with Dementia.

Lifestyle Reporter


Lifestyle Reporter

Dementia figures are set to rise dramatically.

A travel factsheet specifically aimed at people with dementia and their families, has been published as part of the Dementia: Understand Together awareness campaign, led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. 

The tips are intended to assist people with dementia, their families and carers, who may be planning a weekend away or a holiday break in ensuring that their trip is enjoyable. The tips include advice on choosing the right holiday destination and how and when to travel, suggestions as to how to make the journey more comfortable and safe, and ideas to maximise enjoyment of the holiday. The factsheet is available online here .

1.        Choose the right destination and bring company: it’s always more enjoyable to share experiences, so bring a family member or friend. The experience of dementia is different for everyone so take into account the person and how they are affected when deciding on a location. If the person with dementia doesn’t find unfamiliar places disorienting, then going to a new destination may actually challenge the brain in a positive way.

2.        Book the best travel time. Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia. If flying, consider booking fast-track boarding to minimise stress, and avoid scheduling flights that require tight connections.

3.        Get help. Ask about assistance services at your departure and arrival points and book at least 48 hours in advance. For example, Dublin Airport has a ‘meet and assist’ programme so that you can get assistance during your journey through the airport. Even if walking is not difficult, consider requesting a wheelchair so that an attendant can help. If flying, depending on the airline, you may be able to do this when booking your seats online.

4.        Call ahead and research local supports. If staying in a hotel, inform the staff ahead of time of any specific needs so that they can be prepared to assist you. If you will be at a location for an extended period of time, consider contacting the local dementia service for resources and support.

5.        Check your medical cover: if you’re visiting another European Union or European Economic Area country, make sure to have a valid European Health Insurance Card or EHIC (formerly E111 form). This allows access to health care services in those countries, however, there may be additional charges. If you have private health insurance, check your cover abroad. If you are taking out travel insurance, be aware that some policies may not cover those who have a ‘pre-existing medical condition’, or there may be an additional premium, so it’s always wise to read the small print and to shop around.

6.        Pack an “essentials” day bag. Pack a small travel bag that includes travel itinerary, medications, a comfortable change of clothes, water, and snacks. Keep some cash handy for taxis and other travel needs. Include an important documents folder so that you can have easy-to-hand documents such as passport, travel details, insurance policy, contact information for friends, family and GP, a list of current medications and dosages, and details of food or drug allergies. Make sure to share your itinerary with emergency contacts at home.

7.        Give yourself time. Set off on your journey early, giving plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen delays, such as traffic or queues.

8.        Be prepared for security screening. If travelling to an airport, remind the person what is involved and consider advising the agent at security that the person has dementia.

9.        Using facilities. Check if there are accessible toilets, changing facilities or privacy rooms available to help make your journey as easy as possible.

10.        Checking out. If departure is not taking place until later in the day, for extra comfort why not consider asking for a late check-out or see if the hotel might offer a half-day rate if you need to stay longer than a couple of hours.

In addition to the travel factsheet, some of Ireland’s leading travel organisations, including the DAA, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann and Irish Rural Link, have signed up as partners to the Dementia: Understand Together campaign. The campaign will continue to work with these organisations to look at ways to improve the travel experience for people with dementia and their families in 2018. 

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is funded by the HSE and The Atlantic Philanthropies, and began in 2015. The campaign website offers a comprehensive information resource on dementia, including a service-finder detailing county-by-county the dementia supports and services available. It also offers a range of training resources for carers, and for businesses and organisations in the retail, transport, public and financial sectors. Support packs, including posters, leaflets and badges, can be ordered also. Visit or Freephone 1800 341 341.