It is estimated that 5.8 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. By 2030 those numbers may grow to 130 million people worldwide. Travel is not only desired by many but also necessary to stay connected to family and friends.
Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) is a hidden disability as the changes are often not readily obvious to many. As such, accommodations that are readily available to those with a physical disability, are not provided to people living with dementia. And, their families don’t know how to request assistance to support their travel.
The TravALZ vision provides expert consultation to affected persons, family caregivers and travel industry partners to ensure dementia capable travel. The precepts include:
- Recognition of symptoms of dementia
- Dementia friendly spaces
- Dementia friendly communication skills
- Comfort, safety, and well-being of the person with dementia
- Routine accommodations required
- Engagement strategies
I am a seasoned advanced practice nurse who has been blessed to do some amazing work in the field of aging and dementia care for over 3 decades. With a love for older people, I pursued my graduate degree in gerontology/geriatrics (care of older people) and worked for a hospital system crafting improved methods to care for older adults.
While serving as a Board Member for the Arizona Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and facilitating a monthly support group, my career path was forever changed. I was struck by the profound lack of dementia “know how” and programming in the community. With great interest and enthusiasm, I set out to create dementia specific programs and training standards from the community to long term care and hospice. While these efforts began locally in Arizona, many of these programs have had ripple effects and are being used nationally and internationally. Of course, none of these programs happened in isolation – they happened as I was surrounded by amazing team members from across disciplines with passion to make a difference.
I have been heartened by the impact Alzheimer’s disease/related dementia can have on both the individual and family. With lack of understanding, support and direct assistance, dementia can have a devastating impact on both. Conversely, when people living with dementia and their families are provided education, support and ongoing resources, success is possible. This is what each affected person and family should have access to – timely education, information, and strategies that help them succeed and have a good quality of life – from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.
While serving as the Director of Family and Community Services for Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, I had the distinct pleasure of working with numerous people living with dementia and family members. Travel was a common theme following a new diagnosis. It was a continued topic for discussion and advice as visits with family and friends continued long into the disease. For those who were able to learn how to put strategies into place during travel or visits, success was commonplace. But for those without counsel, travel and visits were challenging at best, often leading to resentment and blame.
I established TravALZ (pronounced “travels”) as a way to create and sustain dementia capable travel. With my own love of travel, visits with family and friends, I am very aware of the demands created by travel. I want to ensure that people living with dementia and family caregivers have access to strategies for improved travel experiences. Likewise, I want to aid travel industry partners to have the tools and training they need to support those traveling with dementia.
Many are surprised when I talk about travel and dementia – it’s as if the two topics don’t belong together in the same sentence! Yet, affected people and their family and friends do travel. And, at great expense when they are not supported. TravALZ wants to change this mindset as we prepare for an upcoming generation of older adults who will develop Alzheimer’s disease/related dementia and desire to travel.
TravALZ serves to be your partner in dementia capable travel!