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How to travel safely with dementia, epilepsy or heart conditions

Taking a break from everyday life can do wonders for your wellbeing. Unfortunately, it might not feel like an option for many people living with long-term health conditions.

A report by the Centre For Better Ageing suggests that people aged 65+ can expect to live only half of the remainder of their lives without a disability. Furthermore, more than half of these people have at least two chronic health problems. 

An emergency pendant alarm can make you feel safe and reassured – at home. But what happens when you’re away? Everybody needs a holiday, here’s how to enjoy it safely.

How to travel safely with dementia

It can be a worry for yourself – and your loved ones when travelling with dementia. So, to avoid any additional stress, start preparing for your break as early as possible. The Alzheimer’s Society offers the following advice:

  • Luggage: make sure all bags and suitcases are clearly labelled with your name and address. Also, include an additional note inside each piece of luggage with your details.
  • Passports and other documents: photocopy the personal details page of your passport. Leave one copy with a relative or friend (at home) and carry the other one with you. Also, make copies of your plane tickets and insurance documents – just in case of emergencies. 
  • Emergency pendant or bracelet: wear a OneCall wristband or MedicAlert bracelet as a precaution. Having your ID with you makes sense in the event you get lost or separated from your companion.

Age UK recommends Dementia Adventure. This charity offers small group breaks and bespoke holidays, specifically designed for people living with the condition. You, your carer, friend or family member will be assisted with ‘an extra pair of hands’. What’s more, all of the holiday planning will be taken care of for you.

How to travel safely with epilepsy

Epilepsy shouldn’t stop you from going away on holiday this Summer. However, according to the Epilepsy Society, some people’s seizures can be triggered by being tired, excited or anxious. This is something to bear in mind if you’re flying or, consequently, struggling with jet lag. Here’s what to consider before travelling:

  • Inform the airline when you book: that way they can prepare the cabin crew in case you have a seizure – or need any other assistance – on the plane. 
  • Time zones: if you’re travelling to a different time zone, then you may need to gradually adjust when you take your medication. If you’re unsure how to do this safely, consult your GP or pharmacist in advance of the holiday.
  • Vaccinations: whilst most vaccines will not affect epilepsy medication, some antimalarial drugs are not suitable. If you’re not sure, consult your GP and they’ll help you find the right one. 

How to travel safely with a heart condition

Travelling with a heart condition – or even after a heart attack – may still be possible. However, you should always ask your GP or heart specialist for advice before travelling. According to the British Heart Foundation, these are some things to consider when planning your holiday:

  • Temperature: unfortunately, very hot and cold temperatures can trigger heart conditions. For example, angina can worsen in both types of climate. With that in mind, it’s worth asking your GP or cardiologist for advice before booking.
  • Flying: you should avoid flying to high altitudes if you’re recovering from a heart attack or surgery. Basically, the higher you go above sea level, the less air oxygen there is. Try and stick to destinations that are lower than 2,000 metres to avoid breathlessness or angina. As a rule, if you can climb two flights of stairs you should be fine to fly. However, if in any doubt, speak to your GP before travelling.
  • Airport security: although most modern pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are shielded against interference, it’s still worth telling airport staff that you have one. Don’t worry if the alarm goes off when you walk through security; the metal casing around the device may trigger it.

Other things to consider before booking your holiday

Whatever your condition, these are some important things to think about before you plan your escape: 

Medicine

Try and keep enough medication with you at all times. If you’re flying, it’s a good idea to pack medicine (in its original packaging) in your hand luggage. Be sure to include a note detailing dosages and routines and take a letter from your doctor to show the airline staff. You can carry up to 100ml on the plane. However, if you need to take more, then inform the airline before you fly. You may need a letter from your GP or specialist to do so.

Travel insurance

Alongside, sickness, lost items and travel delays, make sure that the insurance covers you for your particular condition. For example, you may be charged more if you are epileptic as this is a ‘pre-existing medical condition’. Make sure you give your insurer as much information as possible so that you get the fairest quote. It’s worth shopping around though – quotes vary. 

EHIC

If you’re travelling in Europe, it’s also worth applying for a European Health Insurance Card. This allows you to access free – or reduced cost – emergency medical treatment during short visits to other countries. Whatever your condition, this is a good idea. Use alongside – but not instead of – standard travel insurance. 

No matter what your circumstances are, our telecare services can help you live more independently. We’ve written more about the different scenarios where a pendant alarm can help here

For more information about lifeline personal alarms email: info@welbeing.org.uk or call us on 01323 644422

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