As many of us are preparing to take our annual summer vacations, some of you may be realizing that your travel planning will be a bit more complex this year. Traveling with an elderly parent can be one of the most rewarding things you can do with them. It gives your parent the opportunity to see places they’ve never been to, experience adventures, and visit friends and family. But traveling with the elderly can bring with it specific challenges.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re traveling with aging parents or other elderly loved ones on your summer vacation.
Do your research. Your elderly parent may have mobility issues—and a day spent sight-seeing might be exhausting if you don’t have a plan in place. Look for sightseeing options that don’t involve walking—such as boats and buses. Some cities even offer “gentle walking” guided tours for those who walk slowly. Look for hotels with ground floor rooms and book your local transportation before you get there. Look for the shortest travel times between two places.
Don’t be afraid to ask for special services. When on a long flight, ask about rows designated for the disabled. If your parent has had surgery or an injury to their leg, ask for an aisle seat that will allow them to stretch out the leg. When booking your flight, ask about wheelchair services to the gate—even if your parent doesn’t use a wheelchair normally, this can alleviate the difficulty of walking endlessly through the airport to get to a terminal.
Get your papers in order. In addition to your passport (if traveling internationally), you’ll need copies of your parent’s prescriptions and statements of medical conditions from the parent’s doctor or medical facility. If your parent has an implant that might set off security alarms at a checkpoint, have a physician’s note confirming the implant and tell the TSA officers ahead of time.
Pack light. When flying, be sure to put your parent’s medications in a single, quart-sized freezer bag along with copies of prescriptions or physician statements. Using next-combined-dosage boxes that separate the pills may get them confiscated, so avoid this. Try to pack light, with a medium-sized roller suitcase that isn’t too difficult for your parent to manage.
Think about comfort. Long trips can get uncomfortable, by car or by plane. Think about getting your parent a travel pillow to support their head and neck while seated, so they can more comfortably rest in their seat. Bring a blanket—elderly people often get cold more easily. Have healthy snacks on hand (if driving) along with plenty of water, so your parent stays hydrated.
Set your alarm. Your parent may have medications to take at certain times of day. If that’s the case, the chaos of travel and the challenge of navigating different time zones may make it difficult to take medications on time. Set an alarm ahead of time for when your parent should take their medications.
Traveling with your elderly parent can be extremely rewarding. It can also be a challenge, but these challenges can be overcome. With a little planning and research, you can make sure your parent stays safe, happy and comfortable during the trip.
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