As summer gets closer and many families see their schedules free up, they are planning some type of summer trip, especially after missing out on many travel plans over the past year. As a caregiver of an elderly parent, you might be planning a trip as well – whether it’s for fun or perhaps it’s a much-needed visit to a person or place that’s been postponed for longer than you like. If you feel you’re ready to gather up your parent and hit the road (or the airways), there are some steps you should take before you leave, as well as while you’re away, to make sure your parent enjoys the travel safely.
Talk to your parent’s doctor.
Before you leave, check in with your parent’s primary physician to see if there are any concerns or suggestions he may have. You’ll want to make sure you have enough medication for your travel time (plus a little extra in case you get held over somewhere), as well as any medical assistive devices. Your parent’s doctor may suggest a wheelchair for walking through those long airport wings or protective masks to wear despite local mask regulation.
Talk to your family.
If you’re traveling with a large family group, discuss how you’ll accommodate your parent’s needs on your trip. You don’t need to be the only caregiver during the trip. Is there someone who has more patience to walk slowly with your parent or push the wheelchair? Do you have someone who can help with reminders for medication and eating well? Before you leave is a good time to talk to family members about showing care and patience with any limitations your parent may have during your travels.
Talk to the mode of travel you’re using.
If you’re flying, talk to the airline about early seating or if you need a seat near the restroom. Airports often have free wheelchairs so if that’s the only place you’ll need one, see about using one while you’re there. If renting a car, make sure it’s one your parent can easily get in and out of.
Talk to the place you’re traveling to.
If you’re staying with family, let them know what you need to keep your parent safe and happy during your trip. You may not want your elderly parent trying to sleep on a pull-out couch. Your parent may also have special dietary needs that your host will need to have available. If staying at a hotel or resort, ask for a room close to the lobby or a handicap accessible room so that your parent can bathe safely.
Talk to your parent.
Does your parent have any concerns or fears about traveling? It’s important to listen with patience if your parent is feeling anxiety about traveling. For many after the pandemic, traveling will still be very frightening. To help your parent enjoy the travels, do what you can to accommodate her needs, as well as alleviate those fears that may no longer be relevant.
Traveling can provide a needed break from the routines of home. When traveling with an elderly parent, realistically evaluating your parent’s needs before and during travel will make it more pleasant for everyone.