Follow
Share

My mother lives 700 miles away and in July she became severely disabled and now suffers dementia.

We've found a place for her near us and we're ready to bring her home.

We're going to bring her home on a flight and wanted any tips for making the trip go as smoothly as possible.

She'll need a wheelchair and shes not able to help much with transferring from her wheelchair to the seat.

Shes not even the most secure in a standard wheelchair so are there other options for getting a special one for her just for the trip. Preferably one that is slightly inclined?

Any advice would be helpful!

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Paul, only one comment, everybody here covered a multitude of issues you need to consider to decide what will work best for your mom. Do not give her an anti-anxiety medication unless she has taken it before and you know what her reaction to it is going to be. That can run the gamut! My Mom was given Ativan in the hospital for anxiety. On some elders Ativan can have the exact opposite result as intended. The hospital administered Ativan had my Mom's behaviors so unmanageable that instead of overnight observation they had to admit her for a psychiatric evaluation. Make sure any anti anxiety med the doctor may prescribe is tested on her first!
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Check "Long Distance Medical Transportation Services" or call them 800-225-9391
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

kbs1962, Thank you. Brilliant!
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

I'm not sure if this is something you might consider, but when my mom fell in Fla and needed to be moved up to NJ we decided to transport her by medical transport. They drive straight through, have a nurse on board and a Dr on call throughout the journey. My mom was comfortable in a hospital bed and very well cared for (so was I!!) and I was able to travel with her. With her dementia having her very confused and anxious, this was the best way for us to reassure her and make the trip not as traumatic. My mom has trouble with environments that are noisy and have a lot of activity. The airport would have been a tough one for her given her cognitive state. It worked wonderfully for us and we were so glad to have discovered this option.
Helpful Answer (4)
Report

I loaded my demented bladder incontinent mother on a flight from the south east to the far northwest. I kept her busy playing jigsaws on my iPad. (Funny she could do that). She needed one 30 minute bathroom break to deal with bowel issues. I cleaned it up after her. The flight attendants were very helpful. She was able to walk at the time and raced to get off the airplane before I could stop her. She got really cold in the jetway (winter in Michigan). We flew first class which was drastically better. Plus we could bring multiple suitcases. We got the biggest carbon-fiber suitcases the airlines would allow and packed all her belongings in them. Plus in my suitcase allowance as well. I don't know that I agree with the others. For 700 miles, the flight will be short. Driving just expands the hell of travel with a demented person. Have some in-flight entertainment. Block her into the seat. Buy all the seats in the row, so you don't inflict yourselves on some other poor passenger. Fly first class. Give her a bowel deodorant pill prior to flying for a couple days. (there are such things). Have stong people awaiting you on the other side to pick up the load once you get there. Have strong liquor to help you recover once you get home. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

glasshalffull had some great suggestions. I would just add that if you can call and request if at all possible if its just the two of you that you have the whole seat row to yourselves and no one sit next to her. My mom talks constantly to strangers and asks them the same questions over and over so unless you are sitting next to a really nice person...could get uncomfortable for them and you.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

One more idea: Do you have a travel agent that you could get help from to arrange all the details? There may be resources that an agent would know about that could be really useful.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

This question really interested me, so I did a little research after reading the answers. And here's what I found:

independenttraveler/travel-tips/senior-travel/disabled-travel

A lot of useful ideas here and sources for help. At this point I would never consider traveling with my folks by plane because it would be way too stressful on everyone. However, traveling in a van equipped to carry passengers in their wheelchairs has made transportation for them much easier.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

All of you folks advising the drive, what about hotel problems along the way. i have found staying with mom without the right equipment is dreadful. Even "handicapped equipped rooms" often miss the mark...bed heights, slippery floors, poor grab bars, poor lighting, etc. 7 hour drive is long....for folks without dementia

Sometimes the options do get limited...and folks have to make choices.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Having just flown with my frail and not demented MIL here's what I went through and why I now believe that flying frail or otherwise unwell people is unfair to everybody involved. And I'm going to skip over the getting to the airport and through TSA part because that is the easy part. MIL and I arrive at the gate but the plane isn't there: +45 minute delay. I ask MIL if I can take her to the handicapped bathroom but she declines. We have priority boarding and MIL nearly falls transferring to the special chair that fits down the aisle because she was nervous by the amount of people standing around her. Plane finally boards in about average time when the pilot announces that maintenance needed to make a small repair: +45 minute delay. Thing fixed and now we're behind a lot of other planes ahead of us for take off: +30 minute delay. Flying time of just under 3 hours was uneventful but MIL cannot use bathroom because she can't toilet herself anymore. We land and we're the last to get off the plane because of the wheelchair: +20 minute delay. I finally get out of the airport and find the van I ordered and driver and I load MIL into a seat. Off we go. Soon, I smell it. MIL, who had been "holding it" since we left the house that morning and refused to wear diapers, was losing it - ALL of it - all over the seat. I arrived at our hotel with MIL covered in urine and diarrhea. There are times when you have no choice but to get on a plane, like you're in a foreign country and get sick and have to get home, but I will no longer fly my MIL. If I can't drive her some place then she's not going. You'll need diapers, supplies, and possibly sedatives regardless of what mode of transportation you choose. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

Paul, all great advice. Also consider possible unforeseen delays. It happens. Flights cancel, last minute terminal changes, stuck in your seat on the tarmac due to delays, arriving at least 2 hours early to allow a disabled person time to get through security and to the gate. Maybe a van with a driver would be best.
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

It's very nice all these positive tips and ideas,NOW back to the real world. What about it if the plane sits for 2 HOURS? Could mom's mild dementia take it up a notch due to stressful environment? How about a crying baby on the plane,that is unbearable even for people without dementia.How would your mother feel about a TSA agent patting her down(this was done to my wheelchair bound mother that was on oxygen and had a diaper on,they even stuck their hand down her diaper,I was so hoping she had had a BM.) I understand needing to move your mother but seriously I think flying for this lady is a really bad idea. Travel by car,stop when you want/need to,it's more flexible and for someone with dementia it has got to be a lot less stressful and scary than going thru an airport.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

Oh and equipment....we bought a transfer chair for mom. This is light weight (about 25lbs) and can be easily maneuvered by someone. These fold easily and can go just about anywhere. Some have hand brakes (ours doesn't but it works well) We check this when flying and use airline chairs and assistance. No incline - maybe there is a cushion that you can use....
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Ok If you really must do it this way (assuming no change of plane) the flight should only be 1.5 hours tops...not a bad time. Here is what you need: extra person!!! (someone else beside yourself and the person you are caring for) especially good if someone young or well connected to patient (I always travel with my son for my mom - saves many headaches). 2) depends or similar incontinence pants - even if she does not have this problem. Mom puts a tena pad inside the Depends pants so that there are two levels of absorbancy. 3) some calming medication for your mom - for mine she takes a very small dose of ativan 1/2 of a 0.5 mg tablet 4) notify the airline and get their assistance before and after the flight. 5) Have mom wear loose clothes. 6) does your mom like being able to see what goes on? (aisle seat) or not (window or middle seat best) The airlines have a wheelchair thingy that is narrow and can get a person who has transfer troubles down the aisle and to their seat. 6) Comfort item? Stuffed animal, rosary, picture???? To help keep mom calm. 7) snacks that mom likes and can be easily carried and eaten on plane. (Mom likes chocolate chex cereal which travels nicely in baggies (take several).

We flew down to a funeral last month. On the plane (right near us) was a woman who was flying with her mom who had dementia (but only mild mobility impairment). We actually were stranded on runway for 2 hours....her mom did fine. They had a cute little dog (supposedly a service animal - looked like a stuffed dog but was alive and sat at ladies foot) that kept the mom calm even with the long delay and the flight.

Maybe not flying would be better but I know my mom would be in agony for the 2-3 hours per day for 3 days and staying in hotels would be crazy too (beds aren't right height) no rails on them, not chairs for low mobility parents...etc. So the flight could work just be prepared and have help...best wishes for a safe trip...you can do this!!!!

Oh one more thing....check as much as you can so that you only have the bare minimum in your hands and the items mom needs...you don't need the hassle of fussing with bags too unless your extra person can help there.
Helpful Answer (4)
Report

I thought about this some more.Please don't do this to yourselves ,your mom and the other plane passengers.If she has dementia;plane travel,lots of strange people,confined to small area,bathroom availability is going to be a nightmare.And what if she has a "dementia" moment while the plane is in flight?
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Don't fly! for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Security, delays, anxiety, incontinence -- not fair to her, you or fellow passengers....so please don't do this.

Consider flying one-way and renting van or RV for trip back if you don't want medical transport options. It will be worth every penny saved from not flying. Break up the trip such that you are only driving/traveling with her a few hours a day and saying in hotels along the way.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Paul, I also found another article about flying with seniors, this article has 23 comments attached. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/caregiving-tips-for-traveling-with-seniors-147634.htm
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

Paul, I don't know if you Mom is on Medicaid... if she is, please take a few minutes to read this article. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/Moving-to-A-New-State-Can-Affect-Medicaid-Eligibility-174671.htm
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

There is a group called Angels Flights. They do medical transport of many types. I would check with them. They have a website.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

There was a post earlier this year on medical vehicle transports, including vans, etc. I've done several searches but can't find the post. It listed various types of medical vans that can be driven by the family to transport someone by vehicle as opposed to flying.

Air transportation for someone with limited mobility is a real challenge, one which I would reconsider.

I brought both my parents back from Texas to Michigan on an American flight; they were in wheelchairs for longer walks but could walk onto the plane themselves.

We were allowed to board first, and with assistance of the American Airlines staff we were able to successfully get on the plane. Changing at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport was a real challenge though. The staff allowed everyone to deplane before us, we barely made it to the bathrooms and back, and only made the connecting flight because of the outstanding service by American.

I would never want to do that again.

It was stressful on everyone; with someone who has dementia, I'm sure it would be so confusing and traumatic.

I really, really would consider on the ground transport in a medically equipped vehicle. Or if you need to go by air, consider something like a medi-flight or air ambulance service.
Helpful Answer (4)
Report

My tip is don't even try this. Find a way to drive her in a van or large car so she is comfortable and you can stop for potty breaks. Imagine the hassles on the plane and getting through airports.
Helpful Answer (4)
Report

Sorry for my bluntness but what is your plan if she needs to have a bowel movement or urinate? It sounds like she probably is already incontinent. What are you going to do inside a crowded planes tiny bathroom?How would you even get her down the plane aisle?Please rethink this flight.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report

I don't think there's an easy answer to this. You should call the airline and see what accommodations can be made as soon as possible.

700 miles. Can't you drive? Or can someone else drive?
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.