Insider Dementia Friendly Travel Tips, from Laurie Scherrer

This year, Laurie Scherrer is taking a number of trips: Atlanta, to speak at a conference, South Carolina, for a family reunion, and the Caribbean, as a speaker and participant in a dementia-friendly cruise. Since she is living with early onset dementia, Laurie plans out her trips, taking into consideration her needs and the chaos that can be a natural part of any journey. Here are some insider dementia friendly travel tips from Laurie.


Planning for a Smooth Flight

Laurie contacts TSA and her airline, notifying them of her disability, so they can mark it on her ticket. She and her husband both paid for a TSA pass, so they can go in together. That helps her avoid the bombarding noise, distraction, and exhausting wait inherent in a long check-in line

“The TSA staff will walk you through the line,” she says.

Laurie is sensitive to noises, so the constant airport announcements, the din of hundreds of conversations, and the drone of background sounds present challenges.

“I walk into a restaurant and I hear the clanging of the dishes, the forks on the plates, the waiter’s shoes thudding against the floor,” she says. “I have lost my ability to filter sound, and those noises are as strong as any conversation I’m having.”

To minimize distraction and confusion and to help her concentrate, Laurie often wears noise-cancelling headsets.

Once in the airport, she tries to find a quiet place to sit.

“I don’t sit at the gate for two hours with a slew of people,” she says. “Sometimes a restaurant or bar is quiet. For overseas trips, you can try to get access to an airport lounge.”

She tries to get a seat towards the front of the plane, to avoid additional waiting and wading through a crush of passengers.


Packing it Up

Two weeks before a trip, Laurie organizes her clothes for each day. She puts on an outfit, then takes a picture of it.

“On the picture I write, ‘Purple shirt, black slacks, white sneakers, white socks, etc.,’” she says. “Then when I pack, I put each day’s entire outfit together, including socks and underwear. That makes getting dressed so much easier.”


Getting Oriented

At any new hotel, Laurie and her husband walk around the entire building so Laurie can get oriented. When she is traveling alone, she talks to the hotel manager, to explain her situation. At one lodge, the receptionist escorted Laurie to her room and helped her unpack. Laurie carries a tag with her name and room number on it, in case of sudden confusion.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says.


Taking Breaks

Laurie has already planned her quiet time and her personal getaways for the upcoming cruise, where she is both a traveler and a speaker/educator.

“On cruise ships, the library is often a quiet haven,” she says.

She also avoids group shore excursions, as it is hard for her to enjoy being in a crowd.

But it’s not hard for Laurie to relish travel and to revel in engaging in new experiences and meeting new people. It just takes a little planning and a lot of taking care of herself.   #

To learn more about Laurie, visit

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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