Dementia friendly flying: investigating the accessibility of air travel for people living with Dementia
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A diagnosis of dementia should not mean the end of a person’s ability to participate in meaningful activities. However, accessibility for people living with dementia requires improvement across a range of settings. Anecdotal evidence and critical incident reporting suggests that air travel is not meeting the needs of people with dementia, although evidence-based research into air travel and dementia is extremely limited. This research bridges the gap in the evidence-base on the accessibility of air travel for people living with dementia from within the United Kingdom by:
1) Exploring the experiences of air travel of 10 people living with dementia and 10 travel companions of people living with dementia through a series of in-depth phenomenological interviews. Findings identified the importance of a positive social environment, airport special assistance as both a barrier and a facilitator, challenges within the general airport environment and the need for continuity of support at transit points and upon arrival at the destination.
2) Conducting a realist synthesis of the best practice elements of dementia awareness and support training outside of the field of healthcare. Core training components included the importance of sector specific leadership to facilitate engagement, the need for contact education to reduce fear of the unknown and to challenge stigma and the inclusion of ongoing peer support and evaluation to facilitate long-term change.
The findings from both studies are presented within a series of recommendations for how the air travel experience can be improved for people living with dementia and those who travel with them in the future. A detailed framework for the future design of context specific dementia awareness and support training is also outlined. The framework not only identifies what key mechanisms may work in such training, but also provides a rationale as to why these mechanisms may work.