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Merrimack Valley

February 17, 2014

Airports can be disorienting for older adults

Q: In a month or so I am planning on bringing my mother (88 yrs. old) up to stay with me for awhile to give my father (92 yrs. old) a much needed break. It is about an 11-12 hour drive depending upon traffic. Even if I split the trip between two days sitting in a car that long would be a hardship for her. It seems the only logical way to get her up to my house is by plane. The obstacle would be her inability to get through the airport on her own due to dementia. Can any accommodations be made?

A: Flying is not as easy these days as it once was. Many of us can remember a time when you checked your luggage and walked directly to the gate for departure. Sadly the world we live in now requires multiple layers in the check-in/security procedure. The act of navigating through an airport, dealing with throngs of people and strict security regulations can be very disorienting for an older adult with cognitive deficits. The whole event could be even further complicated by a flight delay.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with mental or physical impairments. The expectations are personnel will be available to assist with boarding, deplaning and making connections. Additional requirements and guidelines of the act can be found on-line.

There are several things to consider once you have narrowed down a time frame and begin preparations for your mother’s travel. Whether you make the arrangements yourself or work with a travel agent try to book a flight during the day when the airline is less busy. Make all special requests such as expedited boarding and/or extra leg room (may require a physician’s note) during the booking process. It is extremely important to mention the requirement of access to a wheelchair due to limited availability during peak flying hours.

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