At some point in almost every adult’s life there will be a situation that will require you to assist your elderly parent with their travels. It may be a family reunion, graduation, wedding, a vacation or maybe you are moving them in with you. Regardless of the situation there are a few important tips to consider before their next trip.
The first thing to consider is the medical and safety preparations you need to make prior to planning their trip. You may need to get travel clearance from their doctor to insure they are fit to travel. Make sure to have their doctor write up a statement that details their medical conditions that might prevent them from passing airport security or travel checkpoints. Things like pacemakers, hip or knee implants, pins, metal plates etc. can set off alarms at security checkpoints and can delay your entry significantly if you do not have proper medical documentation.
Once you have proper paperwork for your parent to be able to travel make sure you get travel insurance with medical coverage. If there is a pre-existing condition it may be difficult to obtain insurance however, so make sure to consult their doctor. You need to be prepared in the event that some medical emergency occurs. Make sure you have all their medications needed for the trip and even a few extra days worth just in case. Also have the doctor write out prescriptions in the event that the medications get lost, stolen or if their is an unforeseen delay causing you to extend your stay like severe weather or flight cancellations. Make sure you know where local hospitals are especially if it is a non-English speaking country.
There are a few reasons why insurance is important:
- Senior citizens are more likely to experience medical injury, accident or illness.
- Seniors are more likely to require medical or evaluation.
- Medicare will not cover you outside the US.
- Seniors are generally more vulnerable to kidnapping, muggings, or theft.
- If can cover things that their regular insurance will not cover.
If you have the ability to select the travel destination make sure it is senior or elderly-friendly if they have mobility issues. Pick a destination that has relatively flat terrain that doesn’t require them to be climbing hills, stairs, slippery ground or has poor footing. Fit extra time into your schedule when making your itinerary. You don’t want to be rushed when doing activities on your vacation. This can include things like boarding a plane, going out to eat, sight seeing or visiting attractions. These will all require a little extra time when traveling with the elderly so make sure you don’t cram too many things to do in one day. Also, avoid loud locations where over stimulation can bother them and hinder your ability to communicate with them.
You might want to consider a tour or a cruise for their next vacation. Taking a cruise is a great option because they can go at their own pace. If they get too tired and need a rest they can easily go back to their room and rest. Taking a tour is also great because they can sit back and take in the action without needing to be up and moving around.
Other important tips
Make sure to have all emergency contact numbers on hand like doctors, other friends or relatives that may be more familiar with their medical issues. Keep them along with their medications in a carry on suitcase or bag.
Pack light so their is less to carry and you can pay better attention to your parent.
Make sure they are dressed comfortably and have easy to remove shoes
If they suffer from dementia or have memory problems try to make their accommodations feel like home. Choose a place to stay that looks and feels more like what they are accustomed to. Avoid long elevator rides, walking down long, windy corridors that can confuse them and bring some small things from home that reminds them of home and makes them feel comfortable.
Plan on taking care giving shifts if you have another spouse or friend/family member and they require around the clock care. Don’t take it upon yourself to do everything, share the load with others. It’s your vacation as well.
Try to book a non-stop flight if possible. You want to avoid stressful and time consuming airline transfers.
Make your disability arrangements ahead of time. Do you need a wheelchair or assistance with boarding?
Choose the right tie to travel. Many seniors don’t do well early in the morning and get tired in the evening so consider late morning or early afternoon travel times.
Keep them hydrated but not so much water that they have to go the bathroom often.
Little things like hearing aid batteries can be hard to find away from home so pack extra.
Consider packing a portable shower bench if needed. Most hotels don’t provide them.
Pack things to keep them occupied. Books, Kindle, crossword puzzles all can be a great help to pass time.
Consider flying first class. The extra leg room, better food and attentiveness of the flight attendants can go a long way.