Getting around when you have dementia – how does it work?
If you have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia it’s understandable that travelling alone might feel daunting. However, many people with dementia do manage to travel on their own or with a bit of help. Find out what you need to know
If you were recently diagnosed with dementia, or are only mildly affected, there’s probably no reason why you can’t continue living – and travelling – independently, if that’s what you want. If you’re not feeling as confident as you used to, a few minor adjustments and sensible precautions (see below) might be all it takes to make you feel safer and more positive. So don’t automatically write off travelling alone! If you do like to travel alone, make sure you make the most of each and every trip. Be prepared and make the most of your time away. Sites such as Journeyfolk offer free, independent travel advice and tips for example.
On the bus
You might still have a driving licence but there could come a time when it’s safer (and less stressful for you) to take a bus instead. The good news is that you might be entitled to a free bus pass and some bus drivers have been trained in helping people who have dementia so they should be patient and courteous.
If you find yourself getting confused or stressed you might want to carry a helpcard with you explaining that you have memory problems so that other people aren’t rude and don’t judge you.
Tip: If you want to travel further afield, many coach companies run services for people with special needs. For example, National Express has an Assisted Travel Team.
Take a taxi
Some people find they prefer to use a local taxi firm for short journeys to the shops, visiting friends or medical appointments. It’s worth using the same company – one you trust and can rely on. You could even have an account with them which gets paid at the end of each week or month, which would save you the hassle of always needing to have cash.
Travelling by train
Many companies offer assistance if you’re travelling alone on the railways. This means you’ll be given help getting on and off the train and advice about where to get off. If you need to change trains, you could also ask to be escorted from one train to another. Most of these services need to be booked at least a few days in advance so make sure you’re prepared by ringing up the specific rail company.
Good to know
The law is on your side. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires UK businesses (including travel companies, bus and train companies) to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that disabled people (and dementia is a disability) are able to access their services. If you feel this isn’t happening in your area and you are being discriminated against, go to your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau or carers group for advice. Companies who are found to be breaking this law can face severe penalties.
If your dementia is mild and you still feel quite confident about flying independently, you can get help at the airport or from your airline to make your journey a little easier. For example you should be able to request assistance when checking-in, have help getting on and off the plane and retrieving baggage and ask for someone to meet you off the plane and help you find your way around the airport.
Tip: To get all of these services you might have to fill in a form called an incapacitated passengers handling advice form (INCAD). Your airline should have these forms so it’s worth asking them to send you one, just in case.
Not sure you can do it?
That’s fine – it’s far better to be honest than put yourself through an experience which might be stressful or upsetting. Talk to friends and loved ones and tell them your fears. It might be frustrating for you to have to ask for help, but people who care about you are usually very happy – and flattered – that you have confided in them. After all, if positions were reversed wouldn’t you be more than willing to do the same for them?