In one of my previous articles, I talked about traveling with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. One area I focused on was dealing with the challenges of an airport. Today we’re going to talk about local transportation.
Most of my life, I’ve been guilty of being “my brother’s keeper.” In my capacity as an Alzheimer’s care specialist, none of that has changed, as I am constantly advocating for you and your loved ones, and have never been shy about sharing my personal thoughts and insights.
I recently came across an article published by The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. I never knew there was such an agency, but the article on “Dementia, Caregiving and Transportation” piqued my interest. It contained some valuable information, pointing out that according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 78 percent of family caregivers either provide or arrange transportation for their loved one. It was the “arranged” transportation that concerned me.
The article reminds you that you should have a Plan B in place to transport your loved one locally if, for some reason, the primary caregiver is unable. Of course, the first question is, can your loved one still travel independently? When I was in senior care administration, the subject of a potential resident’s cognitive ability often came into question. Well-meaning sons and daughters would confess that Mom or Dad was “a little forgetful,” but they certainly didn’t need to be in a dedicated memory care environment. I’d usually follow that with the question: “If they were on the second floor, could they leave their suite, get to the elevator, take it to the dining room level and then return to their suite after their meal without assistance?” If the answer was no, it told us all we needed to know. Now ask yourself, how well would this person do taking a traditional bus or taxi across town for an appointment?
Many communities have resources available with trained drivers to transport your loved one to appointments, the Senior Center and even the all important Adult Day Center, and you owe it to yourself and your loved one to familiarize yourself with these places. It all comes under the umbrella of being proactive. Don’t forget to be an advocate and make sure that anyone and everyone who may come in contact with your loved one understands their challenges. Will they need an arm to lean on when they walk? Do they need to be escorted to and from the building?
Are the staff members of these facilities aware of how important it is to pay attention to the behavior of your loved one? For example, is he or she afraid to leave the car; did they try to get out of the car when it came to a stoplight, etc.
This aging center’s article ended with what they referred to as “dementia friendly tips” for drivers. I was stunned when I read that these tips dealt with handling fear, overstimulation, confusion, processing, communication challenges and more. Simply put, an individual who has those issues should have never been on a traditional bus or in a cab in the first place. The article even suggested that the rider bring a travel bag with multiple information cards, medications, and a change of clothes, just in case. If they have an escort, that’s fine, but traveling alone? Not so much. Imagine the trouble that a person with dementia would have digging out an ID card, fare card, destination dard or emergency contact card.
Over 50 million people in the world are living with dementia, which is why education and dementia-friendly communities are so important. Retailers, first responders, formal and informal caregivers, service professionals, and others should make an effort to learn as much as they can, sooner rather than later. Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, Join the Journey.
Robert E.P. Elmer III, of Stonington, is a senior care adviser and Alzheimer’s care specialist. His website is www.careforcaregivers.org.