Traveling with older adults can be a rich and fulfilling experience for the entire family. Yes, it involves added responsibilities and a few compromises, but the time you spend discovering new things and sharing experiences with your elders is something you — and your children — will cherish for a lifetime.
It does, however, require a certain amount of preparation and planning. This time last year, I shared some thoughts on traveling with aging parents as a family caregiver, including these tips:
- Carefully consider the destination and length of trip
- Consider alternate modes of transportation
- Make a packing list
- Plan for breaks
- Watch the weather
- Schedule alone time
- Don't forget a camera
In addition to the usual packing lists and numerous confirmation codes you’ll need to know, seniors have specific health and lifestyle needs that make their travel experiences not necessarily worse, but different for the whole family. So I'd like to share some more thoughts to help those of you who are currently planning your summer getaways.
Schedule a doctor visit before your trip
First there are the health concerns.
Most likely your mother or father has a regular physician or some other form of what the health care industry calls a “patient-centered medical home.” Schedule a visit or at least a conversation with these folks (it could be a doctor, a nurse practitioner — whoever is most familiar with your loved one’s situation). Share with them the general itinerary of your trip and what physical activities and accommodations are planned in order to confirm that your senior is up for the exertion. As exhausting as travel can be for any of us, it can be much more so as we age.
Check medication supplies
This is probably also a good opportunity to verify your list of medications is up to date. You’ll want to make sure that all of them are refilled in sufficient quantity to last the trip as well as any unforeseen delays due to missed flights or car trouble. If your parent takes medication at different times throughout the day, you might consider setting alarms on your smart phone or watch to make sure you don’t miss a dose. We’ve all experienced how traveling anywhere can break our routines and our sense of time can be distorted. (We offer a Direct Link automated medication dispenser to help with these situations at home.)
Double-check any specialized equipment
Give any mobility equipment Mom or Dad uses a thorough inspection. Canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and more all require regular maintenance, and there’s no worse time to need a repair or replacement than when you’re far from home.
Plan for down time
Finally, when planning your itinerary, build in some down time for everybody, as well as some alone time for your senior. Constant social interaction can be wearing, and without some scheduled breaks or time alone at different points in the day, you may not be planning the experience any of you wants.
Over the holidays, we published a list of questions that might be useful for you and your younger companions to make those “together” down times more enriching. I was recently introduced to this charming game that randomizes the questions to make sure everybody can participate. It’s even travel-friendly.
If you have other suggestions for traveling with seniors, we’d love to pass them along. Please visit us on Facebook and share your ideas.
Be sure to also follow our "Traveling as a Family Caregiver" Pinterest board.