This time of the year many of us like to travel. Most retired folks don’t travel as much as we do, but many travel even more—and go a lot further. Even mild dementia can make traveling stressful. Almost by definition, it involves change and change is the Lewy partner’s, i.e., the person with Lewy’s bug-a-boo. We tend to go the same places each summer and that’s great for anyone with dementia too. We all know that familiarity decreases stress. However, sometimes you both really want to go somewhere different. Maybe it is someplace you’ve always wanted to go and just haven’t made it yet. Maybe it is to a special event like a grandchild’s graduation. Travel is possible. Here are a few of the ways to make it easier listed in our new book, Managing the Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s and Other Lewy Body Disorders:
Go together. Lewy partners should never travel alone, even if they feel very able to do so. LBD fluctuates greatly. Low levels can appear just when clarity is needed most—when the stress is at its worst. Someone must go along to assist during the rough spots. Assure the Lewy partner that this is being smart, not helpless.
Plan, plan, plan. The more you plan, the fewer surprises, the less stress. Plan ways to avoid extremes and add familiarity and comfort. If going by car, plan short trips to avoid tiredness (probably no more than two or at most three hundred miles a day). Pack extra clothes for warmth. Take known routes whenever possible. Consider emergencies that might come up and how to deal with them. Talk to the doctor about extra medications.
Do the nitty-gritty stuff. Even when a Lewy partner is functioning well, the truth is that you will probably have to do most of the planning and initiating. A Lewy partner’s challenge is no longer making things happen but simply to keep doing.
Plan as a team. Yes, you will take on the responsibility for making sure everything runs smoothly but don’t let Lewy partner opt out. Include him in on the decisions. Even if he forgets the details, his sense of involvement will remain. The trip will be less stressful—and more fun.
If you fly, buy travel insurance and be prepared to use it. If the Lewy partner starts out feeling paranoid or frightened when getting on the plane, it isn’t going to get better. Get off. DO NOT travel unless both of you feel well. It will almost assuredly make the disorder worse—and with the added stress, it may not bounce back. Stay home and “de-stress.” Then try again.
Exercise. Traveling can be very confining and no one may get much exercise. Make a point of stopping often to walk around when traveling by auto. If going by air, spend time in the airport walking in the less populated areas or even outside. This will help to refresh you and avoid stress.
For more about traveling and other activities with your Lewy partner, read our book. You can get it from our website, www.lbdtools.com.