The Sunflower Lanyard Program
Wearing a Sunflower lanyard (or lapel pin or bracelet) is a way for someone with a hidden disability (e.g. individuals with dementia, autism spectrum, hearing deficits, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, speech difficulties, general aging-related decline, etc.) to discretely self-identify as someone who might require extra assistance, a bit of patience and/or more time from staff or colleagues. Wearing the Sunflower does not entitle anyone to special privileges. Anyone can get a free Sunflower item from participating businesses or services. Businesses and service providers who participate in the Sunflower program donate the Sunflower lanyards to customers who request them. For example, the Minneapolis Airports have the lanyards at their Traveler's Assistance booths. See www.mspairport.com/airport/accessibility/hidden-disabilities-sunflower-program. The employees of the participating businesses or services are trained to provide special assistance to people wearing the Sunflower. Details about the Sunflower are available at www.hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/us. Personal stories about the value of wearing the Sunflower are found at www.hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/blog/category/sunflower-stories. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower originated for use in airports, but in the UK, the Sunflower is now recognized in many sectors: transportation (all major UK airports, buses, trains), retail services, financial services, National Health Service clinics, football leagues, etc. As of the beginning of 2021, at least 10 major airports in the US participate in the Sunflower program.
The Dementia-Friendly Airports Working Group (DFAWG) is an international collaboration of professionals, academics, and volunteers in aging and dementia services and support systems, including present and former dementia care partners, and individuals who are living with dementia. DFAWG was formed in September 2018 after learning about Brisbane Airport’s dementia-friendly airport designation. I have been a member for some time.
DFAWG’s mission is to promote the definition and implementation of substantive dementia-friendly protocols in U.S. airports and airlines and the harmonization of relevant air travel regulations world-wide.
The DFAWG website, www.DementiaFriendlyAirports.com has a wealth of information about traveling with dementia-related conditions, and has a Resources for Travel section that has some of the information from my Travel Tips and this page, but much more.
TSA Cares (855)787-2227 is a helpline that provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances additional assistance during the security screening process. Call 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.
Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the security screening process at the airport may ask a TSA officer or supervisor for a Passenger Support Specialist who can provide on-the-spot assistance. Use the number, above.
Go to TSA.gov/travel for relevant information about getting through security, such as Special Procedures for those with disabilities and medical conditions, and for a copy of a TSA Notification Card, and Security Screening for what you can expect going through the checkpoint. If you have an experience with TSA that you want to share, go to www.tsa.gov/contact-center/form/complaints.
STEP stands for The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The website is www.step.state.gov. You can check the website to see if there are any concerns you should have about traveling to a certain country, such as if the terrorism threat level is high or certain areas are deemed dangerous. The notices they send out about what is required to travel outside of the country during COVID is invaluable.
An excellent resource is the easy-to-read Travel Well With Dementia by Jan Dougherty. A small price price to pay for great information!
Also see, https://journalofdementiacare.com/making-air-travel-easier-for-people-with-dementia, a fine article by Dr. Maria O'Reilly, a colleague on the Dementia Friendly Airports Working Group, from Brisbane, Australia.
Finally, if you or your loved one have doubts about whether travel is a good idea for someone with dementia, see "Tourism as a dementia treatment based on positive psychology", a comprehensive article by Dr. Jun Wen and colleagues published in Oct. 2022 and found at www.elsevier.com.locate.tourman.