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Can You Get Travel Insurance With Alzheimer’s?

Many travel insurers treat Alzheimer’s the same way they treat other mental illnesses; which is to say it is not included on their lists of automatically covered pre-existing medical conditions, and many are also not willing to extend cover to include Alzheimer’s for an additional premium. This is sometimes clearly stated in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), but if it isn’t you would need to ask the insurer for clarity. Comparing travel insurance products can help you find insurers who might be willing to offer extra cover, even if it is with certain conditions attached.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive illness, so it is quite possible for people in the early stages of the illness to still travel on their own, but as their condition worsens so too will they become more reliant on having someone with them to assist. If you are the travelling companion to someone with Alzheimer’s, it is important to remember that you too would need to disclose this when taking out your own travel insurance since their condition could influence the level of cover you receive.

Disclosing Alzheimer’s to Travel Insurers

All travel insurers require pre-existing medical conditions to be disclosed when you apply for cover. This includes conditions not listed in their PDS as being included or specifically excluded for cover. And the term pre-existing covers conditions that you are aware of, or that you should reasonably be aware of. If you or the person you are travelling with has recently been or is currently being investigated for Alzheimer’s or any other as yet undiagnosed medical condition, this too would need to be disclosed. Failure to do so could see all claims being rejected by the insurer, even those unrelated to an undisclosed medical condition. Before deciding whether to extend cover to include Alzheimer’s - or whether the condition could limit the level of cover for other events - the insurer might ask a few questions such as:

  • Whether you or the person you are travelling with needs assistance with common tasks such as eating, dressing, and bathing.

  • Whether you or the person you are travelling with requires more assistance now than six months ago.

  • Whether you or the person you are travelling with will always be accompanied by someone.

The questions are designed to assist the insurer in properly assessing the risk the condition presents to both them and the insured.

Planning a Trip with Alzheimer’s

Most trips require a bit of advanced planning, but if you or the person you are travelling with has Alzheimer’s, more thorough planning will make the trip a lot less complicated.

  1. Start Small

Before planning a trip to a foreign destination, see how you or your companion copes with long-distance travel by planning a short, domestic trip; something that requires at least an hour of travel, and preferably to a destination you or your companion is not overly familiar with. This would also allow you to find a travel insurer who offers some type of cover for people travelling with Alzheimer’s. Domestic travel insurance doesn’t include any medical cover, but you would still have access to Medicare and private health insurance.

  1. Avoid Peak Season

Peak season isn’t the same for all international destinations, though Christmas and New Years can always be expected to be busy periods. Many people find travelling during peak season to be challenging, and for someone with Alzheimer’s it could be even worse, so it would be better to schedule trips around this. You should also consider the duration of the trip, with shorter trips possibly being easier to manage.

  1. Get Medical Clearance

Getting medical clearance from your doctor isn’t only necessary for travel insurance, it could also be a requirement of the airline or cruise operator. The doctor treating you or your companion would be able to make a proper assessment of fitness to travel, and the suitability of the destination for someone with Alzheimer’s. The doctor should also provide a written copy of the treatment plan, and a list of all medications prescribed for the condition. This should include the dosage, and the symptoms it is meant to treat.

  1. Get an Identity Bracelet

Identity bracelets that list a person’s name, medical condition, and emergency contact details aren’t essential in the early stages of the illness, but become more important as the condition progresses, and even more so when travelling. Even when travelling with a companion, it is quite easy to become separated and disoriented in large, crowded spaces.

  1. Draw up a Travel Itinerary

If you or the person you are travelling with has Alzheimer’s, a detailed travel itinerary is extremely important. While it establishes a routine for you or your companion, it also means family and friends back home know where you should be, and what you should be doing, at all times.

  1. Consider the Destination

If there is a chance that you or your travelling companion may need medical treatment while travelling but are unable to get medical cover through travel insurance, consider visiting a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia. Reciprocal Health Care Agreements allow Australians with a Medicare card to receive medically necessary care in 11 countries, with most costs covered by Medicare.

  1. Cruises

A cruise could be a wonderful option for a trip for someone with Alzheimer’s since it is easier to limit their movement, and to establish a routine. However, it is important to remember that Medicare and private health insurance don’t always cover the cost of on-board medical treatment. For that to happen, the ship has to always remain in Australian waters, and the on-board doctor needs to be registered to practice in Australia. A cruise does not reduce the need for travel insurance, but you should still be aware of what your travel insurance does cover, and what is excluded.

  1. Don’t be Afraid to tell People

Letting airline and hotel staff, and tour operators know that you or someone you are travelling with has Alzheimer’s should be a natural instinct. It doesn’t mean you are asking to be treated differently, but it means they are at least aware should you suddenly require assistance.

Additional Resources

  • https://alzheimers.com.au/ - a not-for-profit organisation supporting medical research into Alzheimer’s disease.

  • https://www.dementia.org.au/ - member of Alzheimer's Disease International, the umbrella organisation of Dementia and Alzheimer's Associations around the world.

  • https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements - details of which countries Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with.

If you ever feel that you have unfairly been refused travel cover, or that a travel insurance claim has been improperly processed and settled, you should first contact your insurer to lodge a complaint with them. Your insurer has up to 45 days in which to respond to your complaint, and if the matter has not been resolved, you can then approach the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to lodge a dispute. AFCA replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) on 1 November 2018.

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