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Flying with LO
Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2019 3:57 PM
Joined: 6/8/2019
Posts: 1

We are planning to fly my mother with dementia/alzheimers from Maine to CA soon.  Has anyone had experience with this and can offer advice?  Thank you
Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2019 7:21 PM
Joined: 10/24/2018
Posts: 1068

Hi Bellevue! Not so sure advice, but I've done it with my mother (with help of brother). 

We flew from NY to VA with a stop in Atlanta....The awful thing about it was that we were ripping her from her happy, busy AL life with a BFF across the hall and many community friends to carry her to church activities. Torn away from all she'd known for 22 years as a widow, to live near me. I have been better placed to deal with day-to-day and with hypothetical hospital visits. We'd selected October as the best month for the move, so Mom would get winter (mild) before having to deal with summer (brutal)  

We bought first class tickets on a large Delta jet. We provided for 6 months before the move all the information we could think of. A book of photos of the new place. Encouragement about how she'd like my church. All the cultural events I'd be able to take her to; the opportunities she'd have to hear me perform. I wrote a social story walking us through every tiny detail of the day, with a refrain of, "Margaret Ann doesn't worry!" In every other sentence. She'd had over a year of thrice weekly personal training: the wheelchair I brought was very useful for carrying our bags so we could keep up with her. 

TSA went smoothly, no idea why. We boarded very first. She loved flying. She loved sitting next to bro, who had to entertain her for hours while in the air. I got to take her to the head, which was every bit as difficult as you might imagine. We ate. We laughed. Then it was all over, and we arrived at the new place after 8:00 in the evening. My DH had spent the day fixing up the bedroom as best he could. Bro spent the night on the floor because as soon as we got there, Mom lost all the fun and was up way past her bedtime, full of stress. 

Bro and I had spent a week in her town, taking her to a couple of parties, eating out with sis, and bro taking her for drives while I packed,  with sis helping on the weekend. Bro planned to fly back (he works for Delta) rent a moving truck, and drive her belongings to us. That was October, this is June, we still have a few little things in the storage unit we rented. 

Mom had a very quick and fairly strong decline immediately. She turned 91 two weeks after the move. So did I decline. I don't know if you are taking a pleasure trip or moving house so can't address that part. 

I am very sure I've left crucial info out. Ask away! Best wishes for this trip!

Dreamer Lost
Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2019 8:36 PM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 452

Just got back from flying with DH (stage 6 EOAD) from Texas to Illinois and back.  No major problems a few minor moments though. Depends on your LO stage and behaviors.  Just know you will have to do all the packing and the carrying and everything.  Our moments of tension were taking off DH's shoes and belt to go through security, he didn't understand why. If your mom will sit in a wheelchair ask for one at check in, they are great.  They breeze you through security to your gate.  Use the family assist bathrooms in the airport.  I limited DH 's liquid to water trying to limit the bathroom breaks.  He didn't go on the airplane, thank goodness (our flight was only 2 hours though) but needed to as soon as we landed so was a litttle tense.  I planned plenty of time to eat at the airport, even shopped (which was a good distraction after security for us).  I told the security guards and the flight attendants about DH having Alzheimer's so they were aware.  Also took my airpods to play music for DH on the plane. I put one in my ear and the other in DH's, it seems to keep him calmer and a little entertained. Also carried on snacks for the flight.  DH also has a Rx for buspar a short acting anxiety med which I also gave him before driving to the airport. It can be a long, hectic, tiring day for all So start off rested as you can. If there is more than one of you traveling with her that would also help. Good Luck.
Iris L.
Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2019 12:49 AM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 16444

Consider requesting a wheelchair.

Iris L.

Rescue mom
Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2019 8:09 AM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1494

I had a shorter flight with my DH with Alzheimer’s when he was in earlier stages. Being on the actual plane was easy, NBD at all.

The hard part was getting through the airport security, gates, boarding, etc. The crowd and “rush” all around him threw him off, big time. He became very agitated and confused. He could not even manage a bathroom stop alone, and that was not a problem at home.

No one individual was rude, or bad; it was the overall atmosphere—and we’d flown all over the world before, so it wasn’t a new experience. In fact, everyone I told—and I told everybody- was very nice and helpful. It was the crowds, rushing, in strange place.

I debated a sedative, and decided not. He was fine on the plane, I was worried about too much sedation in the process. Its still a toss-up in my mind as to whether I should have. Water under bridge now...

All I can advise, based on my experience, is give yourself much more time than you think, and try to avoid a crowd as much as possible, especially at the gate. Get a wheelchair and board early if you can. Tell everyone with the airline you can think of, and in advance. Get a wheelchair, even if it’s not really physically needed. If there can be two of you, even better. Don’t leave them alone, even if they’re ok at home. The airport can be confusing.

Be rested in advance, as much as you can. It is exhausting, physically and mentally. 

What Dreamer lost said is also good. (We’ve had so many similar experiences I remain amazed!)

Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2019 9:14 AM
Joined: 3/7/2012
Posts: 2506

Of course each experience will be different as our LO's are different. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is MedicAlert bracelets. I would highly encourage everyone to get them, one for your LO and one for you. That way if you become separated both of you have some identification on. Also when we fly I board in the first grouping simply pointing to the bracelets. If you can get on the plane prior to the sea of humanity I've found it make it so much more relaxing. 

Also as has been mentioned, use the Family Restrooms.  In so many places (movie theaters, airports, etc) restrooms have an entrance on one side and the exit is somewhere else. Its very confusing. When I headed into a Family Restroom with my DH I simply told him it was for me. I had a backpack and a purse and in the Women's restroom there wasn't room in a stall - he's never mentioned it again. Use a fiblet if necessary to protect your LO.


Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2019 12:46 PM
Joined: 10/21/2016
Posts: 2558

Check out the TSA Cares program for disabled individuals

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 8:01 AM
Joined: 2/5/2018
Posts: 51

I have done the same trip many many times over the last 3 yrs. Boston to CA. The 1st trip had a layover and I quickly learned to pay whatever it took to go direct. Then I learned that the best way was to fly 1st class (preferably jet blue for the declining seats, great food (ice cream) and tv. Also-it gets you very close to the bathroom if needed. I ALWAYS find a moment to tell the flight attendants my mother’s ALZ diagnosis so they are aware in case she forgets how to get out of the bathroom or when she tries to speak with them but isn’t making sense. When we didn’t travel 1st class my biggest concern was the restroom.  Sitting closer to the front of the plane was important so the wait to get off wasn’t too great. I would tell a flight attendant and ask if my mother could use 1st class restrooms so it was easier and i could watch without crowding her and making her feel like a child. We were flying to CA about 4-5 times a year with the last trip in March.  Unfortunately I could see that travel was coming to an end as my mother has continued to decline. I am placing her in MC tomorrow and am too concerned with behavior and continence at this point to attempt another trip. 

Other things said were true for me as well-I knew I had to pack the bags and carry them so only packed necessary things to make it easier (or checked bags) I would check her handbag and what she was wearing to make TSA easier. Because she was always getting pre-check due to age, I got myself the TSA pre-check good for 5 yrs so we didn’t get separated at security. I downloaded a few favorite shows on iPad to have at the ready during the wait at airport,etc.    

During flying I found she would get agitated about halfway and fiddling with seatbelt and window screen would happen incessantly. Thankfully she never seemed to forget what flying was like and didn’t get nervous or disrupt other passengers due to flying. 

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