Perhaps you, like me, are emerging out of Covid hungry for the travel that has eluded us these past few years. Care partners supporting a loved one with dementia may especially feel an urgency to travel while they still can. But, with dementia as a constant companion, air travel can be fraught. I continued to fly with my husband until the emotional and physical cost of travel exceeded the benefits. Mostly this looked like him being unable to sit still for long hours, and unwilling to stay in his seat during landing. Safety prevailed, and we stopped flying. Still, during the time that we were still enjoying air travel, I learned a lot through the things I did right, and wrong. Here are some tips that might make your traveling experience more successful. Gratitude here to the members of the Ladies Quilting Club, my dementia support group whose communal wisdom is vast.
If the flight has connections, make sure that you book flights with adequate time to move between gates/terminals. And be sure to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to avoid rushing. Rushing causes anxiety. We want to avoid that.
Know what you are getting into. Prepare ahead by looking at a map of the airport layout and knowing options for moving between terminals and gates.
The Lanyard Program. “Anyone flying with a person with an ‘invisible disability’ should know about the sunflower lanyard program!” says Julie Mosely, an experienced member of the Ladies Quilting Club.
This program, pioneered by Gatwick Airport in Great Britain is being adopted by airports all over the world. Check to see if the airports you are flying into/out of offer this program. The way it works is that the individual potentially requiring extra assistance is issued a brightly colored lanyard festooned with pictures of yellow sunflowers. Optionally a card can be attached providing details about the types of assistance that may prove helpful. Airport and airline staff are trained to recognize that the wearer of the lanyard might require extra assistance and patience.
Take advantage of available wheelchairs. If your loved one is willing, being in a wheelchair will help you avoid ling lines and confusion as you move through security.
Use family restrooms when possible. These can minimize chances of losing a person and they better allow you to offer appropriate assistance as needed.
Pre-write explanations and apologies. Your loved one may do and say things that are irritating or concerning to flight staff and fellow passengers. A little note explaining the situation can go a long way toward improving outcomes.
Have a plan for finding your loved one in a crowd. I lost my husband at the airport when I left to use the restroom and, in my brief absence, he went looking for me. The take aways from 30 minutes of frantic searching and nearly missing our flight are:
Consider using briefs for long flights. Who knew there would be 7 people in line for the airplane restroom? Or that your sweetest would need to use the restroom just as the airplane is in full descent for a landing? ‘Disposable undies’ can be a lifesaver.
Pack along a bag of essentials. Don’t count on buying what you need at the airport or snagging an in-flight snack. And while most airlines these days have in-flight movie options – not all do. Be prepared for delays in the airport as well as on board. Plan ahead and pack along favorite snacks and activities. The essentials bag should also include a complete change of clothing for your loved one and possibly for yourself along with needed medications and water.
Create a buffer between your loved one and fellow passengers. It’s a long flight and nobody wants to sit in the middle seat. But that is likely where you should sit to create a buffer between your loved one and a fellow passenger who might not have your level of patience and compassion.
Allyson Schrier is Zinnia TV’s CEO and a dementia care trainer.
We're beyond excited for Allyson Schrier to join in this discussion on Clubhouse. Tune in on Thursday for a great session on Products for 50+ Startup Challenges.
On Friday Dec 3rd, Allyson spoke to the Clark County Aging and Disability Resource Network (ADRN) https://www.clarkcountywi.gov/adrc about how Zinnia TV can be used as a tool to support family and professional care partners, with an emphasis on it as a tool to support nonprofits. Such wonderful responses from the zoom audience, several of which are already using it!
Our CEO, Allyson Schrier, recently presented on a Healthcare panel at the Accelerate Alaska conference. Allyson highlighted our collaboration with HealthTIE, an Alaska based innovation hub. Our work with HealthTIE has led to opportunities to engage with the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska, Ceresti Health and Alaska Native themed content for the Galena Care Home.
Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio discusses Dementia and the Zinnia TV support tool with a panel of experts, including Co-Founder Allyson Schrier, University of WA neuropsychologist Carolyn Parsey, Keri Pollock of the home care agency Aging Wisdom, and Carolyn Lukert, a key player in Teepa Snow’s organization and care partner for her own mother.
Aging2.0 and The Louisville Healthcare CEO Council are searching for the best aging-focused innovators in the world - and we’re in the running!
Help us out by voting for Zinnia TV once a day, every day until June 27!
Answers by Experts is a new series by Koelsh Communities in which care partners have their questions addressed by leaders in the field. Our own Allyson Schrier hosted their May 26 discussion with the esteemed Teepa Snow.
Hear Allyson interviewed about her journey into the care field on the Seattle radio program Answers for Elders, hosted by Suzanne Perkins Newman.
We are very proud to see Allyson and Zinnia TV mentioned in the State of Alaska's guide "A Call for Action: Alaska's 10-Year Map to Address Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia". As one of the fastest aging states in the nation, Alaska has created this plan as an urgent call to action that describes the current systems of support. Zinnia TV is featured through Health TIE, an Alaska-based nonprofit focused on connecting service providers and organizations with emerging health technology start-ups and facilitating pilot projects.