For many, summer is synonymous with vacation. But for aging adults, vacation isn’t always synonymous with relaxation. From climatic conditions and wheelchair accessibility to ease of local transportation and access to medical facilities, there are many factors that could turn traveling with seniors from a getaway into a nightmare.
But don’t cancel the family reunion just yet. If you care for an aging loved one and still want to go on your annual family vacation, there are things you can do to make your traveling experience safe and healthy. Here are five family caregiving tips for traveling with seniors.
Pick Senior-friendly Destinations
Disneyland might be known as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but after a day spent walking around the 85-acre park, your loved one might disagree. Try to visit places that are suited to seniors’ needs. For example, all national park facilities are accessible for visitors with disabilities. Cruises are comfortable, wheelchair-accessible and staffed with medical professionals. Boston even provides a special van service that offers $2 door-to-door rides, making historical landmarks easy to visit.
Consult with a Doctor
Before you even buy a plane ticket or book a hotel room, make sure your loved one gets the green light from the doctor. Make an appointment to discuss if the destination is appropriate for their abilities and limitations and if any vaccines are necessary. Bring a full supply of any medications, vitamins or supplements (leave them in their original containers); the health care provider’s contact information; and insurance information. Also, before you go, identify the medical facilities at your destination.
Pack the Essentials
In addition to medical documentation, make sure you pack the essentials: a passport if needed, driver’s license, travel tickets and itineraries, an extra pair of eyeglasses, a light sweater, a hat, sunscreen, a travel pillow, snacks, and water. Although you want to be prepared, avoid packing too much. Try to pack as lightly as possible so it’s easier to get around.
Prepare for the Airport
If you are flying — and it’s available — it might be worth it to splurge on a direct flight so you don’t have to hassle with layovers, missed connections and delays. Regardless, it helps to check your bags. Prep your loved one for what to expect when going through security, and call ahead if necessary to make sure the airline can accommodate any assistive medical equipment your loved one uses or to request a wheelchair or an electric cart to get to the gate.
Plan for Downtime
Vacations can be relaxing, but they can also be full of things to do and places to see. But if you’re traveling with seniors, you’ll need to plan for breaks and downtime. Be realistic about how much walking and sightseeing your loved one can do. Instead of rushing from place to place, schedule breaks where you can sit down and people-watch. Take advantage of benches in museums, or reserve spots on a bus or boat tour. Just don’t over-schedule.