Hit the Road: Traveling Tips for Seniors
Just because we get older doesn’t mean hobbies and interests diminish. If your aging loved one has always heeded the call of the open road, there’s no reason to stop now.
As a caregiver, while you may feel uncertainty about helping your loved one prepare for a trip, the following traveling tips can help ensure happy trails.
While hopping in the RV at a moment’s notice and taking to the highways may work for some, it’s not an appropriate approach when it comes to the elderly. Proper planning is essential. Begin by consulting with your loved one’s physician to determine whether traveling is possible and to determine if any vaccinations or extra medication will be necessary.
This step is particularly important if your parent suffers from a specific health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. Because traveling may or may not be a good idea for individuals with signs and symptoms of dementia, this step is definitely critical.
Help your loved one collect and organize all travel documentation as well as essential medical paperwork, including insurance cards, prescriptions, and physician contact information. Make four copies of all essential documents: one complete set travels with your loved one; the remaining three sets are packed into luggage, forwarded to the arrival destination, and kept at home in a secure location.
If your loved one has special needs -- such as an airport wheelchair, accessible seating, or advance boarding -- make advance arrangements with the travel company or airline. While it’s possible to handle these things on-site, it’s also stressful. Managing these details in advance can ease anxiety -- both for you and your loved one.
If the trip requires flying, don’t forget about security policies. Easy on/easy off shoes are essential. Furthermore, if your loved one has special needs or a medical condition that might set off alarms, travel with documentation from the physician and inform the airline in advance.
Also, confirm the availability of any particular necessities at the destination point. For example, if your loved one needs a shower bar for bathroom safety, speak to the hotel or family member with whom he/she will be staying.
While bringing along everything your loved one might want is tempting, multiple heavy bags can limit mobility. Pack only what is needed. Make sure all of the essentials are easily accessible in a carry-on while keeping excess items to a minimum. Pack all medications into a clear, plastic zip-lock heavy duty freezer bag for simple passage through security as well as easy accessibility.
Sad as it may be, criminals do sometimes prey on older adults. While your mother’s purse may be her go-to carryall, it makes her a target to purse snatchers. Similarly, your father's back-pocket wallet offers easy access to a pickpocket. Money belts and concealed wallets keep items secure and out of reach of thieving hands.
Keep in Touch
Make sure your loved one has a way to reach you at all times. If he/she doesn't already have a phone, consider a prepaid cell phone or calling card to keep the lines of communication open. Pre-program all important numbers.
The Family Caregiver Alliance also recommends that loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia wear identification or medical alert bracelets.
Consider Their Needs
Vacationing with an older adult can be extremely fulfilling, but it may be different than the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vacations you are used to. Plan a schedule that acknowledges the needs of your loved one. For example, travel during the times of day when he/she is not tired. A predictable daily routine is essential to reducing stress so try to maintain normal mealtimes whenever possible. Also, don’t forget about building downtime into your schedule. Your loved one will need the chance to rest and recharge and so will you!
While planning for your loved one to travel may be challenging, the potential rewards are significant. By following these traveling tips, you can help to ensure a safe, healthy and fulfilling experience.
- While seniors can enjoy satisfying travel, proper preparation and planning is necessary.
- Advance accommodations ensure smooth experiences everywhere from airline security to the hotel.
- Pack light!
- Safeguard your loved one from criminals by encouraging wise travel practices.
- Help your loved one stay in touch by using a prepaid calling card or cell phone.
- Plan a schedule that considers the needs and limitations of your loved one.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.