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Old 01-15-2011, 12:28 PM   #1
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Question Has a member of your family ever had a meltdown on the plane; what did you do?

I'm really afraid of my Alzheimer's mom going off into a tantrum or something when we take our first flying trip this December. I'm afraid to the point they may even land the plane; who knows? I may get lucky and she'll sleep through the whole thing, but who knows.

I think sometimes it may be easier seeing this happen with a child and everyone is more forgiving in that regard.

How do you calm the person down? I need some good hints, here.

This can't be a driving trip; so, I need help on preparing my mom for what's to come on the plane. I feel going through airport security may get her all wond up and then she'll explode on the airplane. Once she gets started it's very hard to calm her down. She really can't read anymore, etc; so, I won't be able to entertain her in those ways.
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:41 PM   #2
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I have never experienced it, but I was a witness to one. We usually pre-board the plane due to our sons disability. There was a family ahead of us also pre-boarding for the same reason. The airline wanted a man to leave his wheelchair by the door of the plane, and carry his daughter to her seat. He was furious about that and had a complete meltdown. The pilot finally came out and told the guy that if he didn't calm down, he would be removed from the plane.

I suppose if the meltdown is bad enough, they will ask you to leave. There have been cases where an autistic child was kicked off the plane over the last few years.

Good luck to you on your trip. Hopefully everything will run smoothly for you.

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Old 01-15-2011, 04:14 PM   #3
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I'm worried about this with my dd too!! I'll cross my fingers and say a prayer for you that things go well for your mom. I think with any of us who have people who melt down, the key is to do what you can to prevent them. The obvious, tired, hungry, stressed. They'll pick up on yours, so the calmer and more peaceful you seem the better. I do realize that can be hard when there isn't always a rational reason they have one. "No reasoning with the insane" is my quote when my dd looses it for a totally irrelevant reason! Say for instance... it's snowing out!

Although she can't read, maybe there are some picture type books that she could look through? There is a really nice book like that where my mom lives (assisted living facility). It is maybe a Time Life? It has all the iconic actors of the past. Another idea, since you have some time to maybe get her used to them, is an mp3 player with the larger head phones. You can put classical, or nature sounds, something that might calm her while you're in the air. She can just sit back and close her eyes. Just a couple thoughts. Best of luck to you that it all goes smooth

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Old 01-15-2011, 05:21 PM   #4
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I was a case worker for children with Autism and other disabilities. This question came up in reguards to many things. We gave the parents the best advice we could.

We also worked with others in the community, and one of our schools has a closet that was about what a plane was across and was able to hold about two chairs across, then an isle and two more chairs. We were lucky that it had a two way mirror so it was almost like being able to see out the window.

We made arrangements with the teachers to allow families flying to practice in there, usually right after school for an hour when the teachers are there but quietly working.

When parents used this and learned, what kept the child quiet and what toys to bring, I can say we never had a meltdown on the plane.

So my suggestion would be to find someplace where you can set something up like a plane, even if it is your hallway with curtains hanging at both ends and a picture hanging on the wall so it can look like a window. Practice over and over again, 5min. 10 min. 20 min and hour until close to when your flight time is.

Watch what makes things easy, if going to the bathroom is to difficult and it is a long flight, then use a diaper. If she needs to eat every two hours make sure you have snacks she likes. If listening to the radio works then bring one, if tv works than find someone willing to let you borrow a portable DVD. Whatever works.

Lastly, I am not an advocate for this but sometimes it is needed. Medication that will make her calm or sleepy. My daughter always even now at 20 needs medication like sudifed when flying, since her first flight her ears kill, screaming to the point of wanting to wring her neck when she was a baby, and ear infections within three days of flying. Well, even now we give her sudifed and even if she still gets ear infections after a flight at least during the flight she sleeps. Of course we have always talked to the doctor about this before doing it. I have had some children on my case load where the doctors would allow double on a med to keep them calm.
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:14 AM   #5
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For disabilites a person can only be removed from the flight if their meltdown is a manefestation of there disability if it poses a safety risk (which can be a reasonably wide definition.

I would arive early so once you get through security you will have time to settle he if it is needed. Preboarding can serve the same funtion also.

99% of meltdowns are caused by anxiety so staying calm and not everreacting is essential (as it is for the flight crew if a situation arises, and that is how they are supposed to be trained).

Is it just you and your mom or are others traveling with you?

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Old 01-16-2011, 04:53 AM   #6
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Not a family member but a family friends adult son.
Our flight had been delayed, TSA took his drink(Dr. Pepper)away and the last straw on the plane was that he did not like the meal.

We got lucky and I happened to have lollypops in my bag that calmed him down.

We were all thankful that did not tell us they were landing becuase of him.

Think about what triggers meltdown in your Mom. Keep her food and sleep as close to normal as you can.The picture book works for some that have stopped reading as do busy books(like you use with little kids. Sew fabric books with learning zippers,snaps and buttons as well as textures to feel.

Another thing you can do is see if her Dr. will give you something to calm her.
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:09 AM   #7
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Wink Thanks to all

I love the pretend plane idea. I think I will even add the security pat down experience to this show and tell. She has rods in her arm; so, this will be an ordeal, too. I'm planning on taking her to the airport; so, she can see how some of this works ahead of time. Unfortunately, you can't go through the whole process, but I still think it may help.

I stay away from any sedatives; because, it reacts worse on the elderly and it also doesn't mix well with her current meds. This is a tough one. She's in a wheelchair and she could get very dizzy and zombie like with a sedative added to her mix. She can stand with assistance for a minute or so. She's incontinent; so, I will even put extra padding on her with a diaper.

I'll try the picture book idea. I may be able to create a Disney World book of sorts. Putting anything in my mom's ears would probably set her off, but I will try ahead of time and see how it goes on that count.

I worry about the what ifs, but I'm hoping she will be fine with me at her side. I'm thinking she will be too afraid to act up.

Thanks to all for the suggestions.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:14 AM   #8
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I will say a prayer for you and your mom. Best wishes to you both!

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Old 01-16-2011, 09:30 AM   #9
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Be there early enough to preboard.
Ask to preboard quietly just once if you think this is desirable and the gate agent doesn't ask first.
Don't plod, but also don't rush. But you must methodically proceed step by step and not take time to wheedle or cajole or entice.
You may have to slowly force or restrain the person who is melting down so s/he remains in his/her seat without touching others. During flight the crew may be able to assist for a short time but they will use duct tape rather than stand there continuously using their muscles and charging you by the hour.
You will need to use decongestant medications if the person has a history of earaches during or after a flight.

Now any pretend flights or preflight excercises as mentione above will help.
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:09 AM   #10
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Just to clarify I didn't mean seditive as the only medication, some Drs. would up an antianxiety med or up a mood stabilization med. Check with her Drs to see if any of that may help, if not than just practice.

Secondly, depending on where you are going from you can practice the security. When I got my first service dog we practiced at the airport, Portland airport, we went all the way thru security and all, this was when there was someone with us from security. I thought it was because we were a well known school. And that may be the case in a large city.

My ex has a dog that is not from a large school and is for hearing and not guide like mine. Anyway he already has metal in his leg so security freaks him out. We are at a very small airport, only a few planes a day. We called security, asked that if at a very quiet time of the day could we come and have a practice run. The allowed it, we went he practiced and immediately after we got on the other side the TSA brought him right back. At the time we were the only people going thru so we did not tie up anyone. They told him what helped and he was able to work with it. It was so great. I realize that it was probably that we were in a little airport and not a huge one and we were able to work with them and do it at a very quiet time of day.

It is worth asking, or even driving a little if a smaller airport is in a different part of your state, just to work out the kinks.
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:13 PM   #11
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my mother has worked with those with alzheimers for most of my life. as said a mood stabalizer or anti-anxiety can do wonders. while i dont believe in "drugging" people all the time you do not want her to lash out and hurt herself or others. she also trys to keep patients in a routine as much as possible as they can become disorientated when things change. if it is around her normal meal time or nap time i would try to make sure it doesn't get skipped. i also recently read an article in the NYtimes about a nursing home that uses new methods to keep those with alzheimers calm without medication. it suggested letting them "do" something they used to do. for example some patients get baby dolls or other pretend activity items.

my mothers current patient is very far along. she was an avid reader and if they give her a sheet of newspaper she just looks at it and is happy for hours. if she is not that far along but can't read maybe a picture/coffee table type book with art or pictures of people. music may not be a good option, as someone said she might not like having something on her ears and touching can often trigger alzheimers patients. how does she currently spend her days and her time? can you modify an activity she does on a daily baisis?

good luck with your trip.
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Old 01-21-2011, 06:54 PM   #12
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I have anxiety issues and HAVE to know what is coming up, what to expect, eect. When I was younger dirnking helped. Now I use DOCTOR prescribed meds. I usually have to up them a few days before an event I know will be stressful. I am sure her doctor would be able to prescribe something.
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