Traveling Plans with Aphasia

It’s always wonderful to hear about the adventures and successes our clients have after they leave us! I recently spoke with Melissa about a cross-country family visit that her and her husband, John, took. I knew they were nervous about their family wedding after their intensive therapy program.

For many families with aphasia, traveling can be a daunting task, especially around the holidays. I asked Melissa if she cared to share any of her fears, challenges and victories.  We can learn so much from each others’ experiences!

Melissa was afraid her and John might be separated in an airport. In an emergency situation, it may be difficult for him to react quickly or respond to instructions. I’ve dealt with this fear myself, especially the first time my partner flew home to see his family alone. We’ve had many clients with aphasia travel alone through airports, even internationally. The fear is always there–”What if they don’t understand a direction and get arrested or hurt?” Thankfully, we’ve never seen that situation come to light, and our fears are groundless.

Holidays are very busy at airports.. Melissa’s advice was to write up the itinerary for John before the trip so he could better understand what is coming up. This paper can be shared or shown to others in an emergency situation. Another suggestion is to sign up for TSA Pre-checks to avoid crowded security lines in which people are rushed and noisy.  

When it came to spending time with family, some things went smoother than expected. At a large wedding, they had to meet new people. Melissa found that once John’s aphasia came up in conversation, folks were quick to empathize and engage them both in conversation. Many people had family members who’d had strokes.

While you really don’t want to start new conversations with “Hi! This is John. He has aphasia…”,  give your families a heads up if you are ok with them sharing any background information on you or your loved one to help break the ice!

It’s also important to stay tuned in to the needs of our loved ones, even if they haven’t said anything. For example, Melissa noticed that the cocktail hour was getting rather loud. She found moments for them to sneak away for some peace and have quiet conversations with family. She was concerned that others would mistake them as anti-social, but knew that for her and John to make the most of a great evening, they needed to take care of themselves. When it comes time for you to make holiday or vacation plans, what do you find helps to alleviate the stress of travel?

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