Should someone with Alzheimer's disease travel alone? -

Should someone with Alzheimer's disease travel alone?


My step-mom is supposed to fly from Arizona to Boston in ~3 weeks time. I don't think there's any way she could or should be doing this without a companion. My father isn't allowed to fly that far and will not be traveling with her. I thinks it's an insane idea but dad isn't listening to me. Part of his denial process at this stage of her disease. Does anyone know if the airlines have rules about people with dementia flying solo? I suggested he talk this over with her physician, but that was also shot down. She's incontinent and starting to wander. I'm envisioning a news story about a flight diverted because of an elderly confused passenger. Any thoughts?



I was a Certified Travel Counselor for 37 plus years before I was diagnosed with early onset Dementia/Maybe ALZ just shy of two years ago in my mid 50's. I have literally traveled much of this world and understand the perils of traveling even for someone whose life is not impaired by dementia. I read through the link BarbBrooklyn posted and it is an excellent guide.
I traveled with my family for a Christmas cruise in 2016. This was my most difficult experience traveling since my diagnosis. Thankfully, my DW and two of my three adult children, and our 10 yr old at the time were with me. Remember, I spent my entire adult life traveling and yet, there were many times I was confused, yet aware enough to tell my wife and adult children, they would have to make decisions, I didn't feel as though I'd make the correct decision. Yes, there were times I was plain frightened because I was not familiar with the particular ship we were on or airport we were in. I did insist they get off of the ship and enjoy the ports and I stayed on board enjoying the pool and our huge balcony. I felt perfectly comfortable in the environment of an uncrowded ship.
I pray each day that I don't lose touch with being mentally aware enough to continue telling my family, I need for them to make the decisions for me when I know I need help. Sadly, I know the day will come that I probably will lose that lest vestige of reason and be totally dependent on my family making decisions for me.
Yes, I believe I am smart enough to leave you with this bit of professional advice. I would not allow even someone in the early stages of any dementia to travel on their own. Perhaps approach things with the attitude, lets go on this adventure together and visit Boston, perhaps cruise to Alaska or Hawaii, if at all possible. I know neither of my adult children wish to travel with me again, but they would if I needed them. I was pretty high maintenance on that trip. Don't let a patient with any dementia travel by themselves, you'll regret it and their journey will have serious consequences for all. My Opinion.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to jfbctc59

It IS insane. Does your dad have dementia too?

Who is she visiting in Boston? Are they aware of her condition? Perhaps the invitation could be rescinded.

I think I would alert mom's doctor with a certified letter followed up by a phone call.

Has the ticket been purchased? I would call the customer service line and talk to a representative of the airline.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn

Oh my goodness that is really scary. Can you imagine how scared she's going to be in the airport? This makes me want to cry. Please, cancel her flight. Make up any excuse. She can not go alone.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Jessica40

Absolutely not!! Even if the airlines were ok with this, its yours stepmoms life you’re dealing with. My husband had early onset Dementia at 53. He was still walking but got confused as well. And incontinent as well?? No way. I took him on an airplane ride because he desperately wanted to see this elderly aunt in another state. He had to use the restroom in the airport so i showed him where it was and waited at the end of the corridor. After 10 minutes I had to ask someone to go look for him. Thankfully, he found him but when we were in the air, an hour later, he had to use the rest room again!! I went to help him and the stewardess insisted I return to my seat. I tried to explain his medical condition and she said she would assist him and firmly sent me back to my seat! I did but of course watched the door like an eagle. I finally see it open and I ran to see how things were (was he zipped up, etc.) and when I got there I saw that he had SPRAYED THE ENTIRE ROOM!! OMG! What a mess! I tried to clean it the best I could but was interrupted to return to my seat. I was so annoyed, I did and when I got to my seat. I sat just in time to see the poor pilot use the toilet! That stewardess should have been fired but when you are attending a person, they are your first priority. They get very confused in unfamiliar surroundings which makes matters so much worse. For Gods’ sake, do not allow this to happen unless she has a competent companion that knows how to deal with Alzheimer’s patients. Being stubborn is one thing. Being reckless is another. You are dealing with lots of unknowns- an airport, security, lots of unfamiliar faces, the ride itself and then the reverse. I can not imagine why anyone would allow such a thing. Please help her...
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Reply to Katmar

I was on a flight and sat next to a woman that was traveling alone with dementia. She had connecting flights to make and panicked when she asked me where the flight was going and it did not match her final destination. This caused a delay in the flight while the attendants checked to make sure she was on the correct flight. During the flight she continually checked for her things and could not find her other boarding passes. I helped her find them then she forgot where they were again. By the grace of God she was seated next to me whose mother recently passed from dementia so I was able to deal with her. Can you imagine her sitting with someone who did not understand? I managed to calm her and told her I would help. I alerted the attendant that she would need assistance. When the flight landed none of the attendants helped her and no one was waiting to help. I assisted her to the restroom and had time to help her onto her connecting flight. I once again told the attendants of the new flight that she would be needing help and could easily lose her boarding pass and have problems finding it. I was very doubtful that they would help her as they had not on the previous flight. So as I watched her board her next flight I hoped there would be another good Samaritan on board to help because it seems most airlines only help physically handicapped people and have no patience or help available for dementia customers so no no no from personal experience should they ever fly alone!
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Reply to cirrk1

My mom has late stage Alzheimer's and I work for a major airline.

The airline policy is if a person cannot safely evacuate during an emergency they should not travel alone.
As an airline employee we are limited in the type of questions we can ask to ascertain a passenger's ability to travel.

You should be very concerned if you think your loved one isn't capable of traveling alone, especially if it isn't a non-stop flight. Yes, planes do divert if a passenger is ill, disruptive, or if for any reason the flight crew determines that comfort and safety of passengers is compromised. And some airlines pass the cost of the diversion on to ill passenger!

Personally, I have seen it happen too many times; family members putting an elderly person on a plane who is incapable of flying alone and easily confused in unfamiliar surroundings. I think it's elder abuse!

My mom has flown one time in the last 16 years and was with my dad and sister. It was so difficult my dad said never again! Mom was agitated and confused.

I certainly hope you can prevent what could be a crisis!
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Reply to Dlanz0423

BandNerdsMom, may I ask if your Step-Mom has been a frequent flier, and flying on her own on many times over?

I know a woman who has some type of dementia but she will book flights to visit friends who live in far off lands, and fly back and forth in the States to visit her son's family with no problems. Her husband never goes with her. For some reason, I think because she has flown so much, that her mind is able to still understand the process.

Thus, if Step-Mom is not a regular frequent flier, this isn't a good idea. Chances are she wouldn't even get past the TSA by her refusing to cooperate.
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Reply to freqflyer

OMG, no way should an incontinent person with Alzheimer’s do anything alone! Unless the toileting issue was due to a medical problem prior to having Alzheimer’s, that means she’s in the later stages of the disease where some folks are in memory care facilities due to all the unpredictable issues that go with dementias. If she even could navigate through the airport, find the right gate, go through security and get on a the plane without a problem, there’s still the actual plane ride to contend with which includes the health and safety of the other people on the flight. Aside from all the stress and confusion the flight would cause your stepmom, who very well may “think” she would be fine, the other passengers on the plane would be trapped and be a captive audience with whatever event transpired. I would think( definately do not know) that your dad may even be open to lawsuits being her caregiver and allowing her to be a danger to herself and others. Just way too many things could go wrong, definately a horrible idea no matter how stubborn or how far in denial your dad and step mom may still be with regards to her having Alzheimer’s .
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Reply to Alzh101

Bad Plan, VERY bad plan! My experience with mom (Stage 6) is that stressful situations can increase the level of confusion and bizarre behavior on a monumental scale. Would dad be willing to pay for you or someone else to travel as her companion? How importanat is this trip to her? I recently went on an 8 day road trip with mom to visit relatives in another state. It was very hard on her. Routine is very important to Alz patients and travel is anything but routine. I'm guessing the airline would decline to take her if they knew. Check with their customer service department and they should be able to direct you to the best person to speak with. My dad (before he passed in December) also didn't recognize moms decline. He would let her make serious decisions that she was not equipped to make. My heart goes out to you.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Terrie55

Don't let her go. Boston airport is very very busy and confusing for a person in their right mind. It is reckless to send a person like that without a family member. Don't let her go.
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Reply to DILburnout

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