social, health, political imagery through the lens of G J Huba PhD © 2012-2021

Over the weekend I did something I have not done since I retired from my job because of dementia in 2011.

I flew a round trip on airplanes including two legs in each direction and four hour connection times both outbound and inbound at the Philadelphia airport.

I flew unaccompanied.

It was a lot more difficult than when I travel with family and almost a night-and-day experience in relationship to the 20 years I flew between 100,000 and 150,000 miles each year without leaving the lower 48 states of the USA.

But I did it.

Should you be inclined to do what I did and fly unaccompanied, I have some very important pieces of advice.

  1. You cannot even try flying alone without the support and permission of your family and caregivers. Honor their wishes and judgments.
  2. You should talk to your doctor and take seriously their advice and concerns about flying. If your doctor says you cannot do it, recruit someone to go with you. Or don’t go.
  3. Do not even go on the plane alone without a LOT of preparation. This is critical.
  4. The most important thing you can take if you travel alone is a smartphone packed with lots of travel apps, and web clippings of important information like your air travel documents, key contact lists, an full itinerary, possibly a bank card integrated into your smartphone, and pictures of important information like your ID card, pill warnings, where you are going, who you are going to see, and much more. You cannot ever have too much information on a smartphone. But do make sure you can find it quickly when you need it! Note: I believe that you cannot leave your ID at home. Security checks require a physical ID card.
  5. As a rough estimate, I think that probably less than 5-10% of all people with EARLY STAGE dementia should be traveling unaccompanied. Forget traveling alone if you are in one of the advanced stages of dementia.

Here is a small mind map I made up while sitting in the Philadelphia airport a couple of days ago.

Click the image to increase the size of the mind map.



The most difficult part of the trip by myself was to get through security screening. Pray for a world where terrorism is no longer a problem.



Post a comment
  1. Orla #
    October 10, 2019

    I fly but its getting harder and harder with the metal detector and putting clothes back on and reassembling carry on bags. Ive often windered if i could get a disabled category so i could get on plane earlier and not have to deal with all the people plus fitting in overhead bag at end when there is no space.

    Oh, and after giving it to the staff….what seat am I in?

    • October 11, 2019

      The only way I know of is to purchase a TSA Pre-approved Card. The application process does a prescreening of your secur4ity risk and if low you can get a card for (I believe) $80/year. The card is available to all US Citizens who quality whether disabled or not. It gets you into a MUCH shorter line, the “simple” metal detectors, and usually, you can wear shoes through and leave electronics in your bag. Note that after applying you will need to go to one of the local airports in the USA that will fingerprint you. I am in the process of applying for this pass (I used to have a complimentary one because I flew so much, but then TSA changed the rules). Information is on the TSA web site.

      • October 11, 2019

        Also, my preferred carrier (American) lets disabled persons board at any time during the boarding process. I suspect all other airlines so the same. I have never been asked for any type of proof I have I am disabled. Outside of the US, it might be more inconsistent. (In Spain, at least at the museums I went to, you cannot get the disabled discount unless you have a SPANISH disability card (they do not honor US disability identification).

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