Ahhh, May! It’s the start of the busy travel season. Nieces and nephews are graduating. Sons and daughters are getting married. There are anniversaries to celebrate and picnics to consume. There are family reunions to attend and grandchildren’s T-ball tournaments to supervise. What fun!
If only we could bring all of these events to our own backyards. But until someone invents a real teleportation machine, we’ll have to take to the roads or the skies. And when preparing to travel with mom, dad, or other elderly loved ones, we face some unique challenges. What can we do to make sure traveling this season is as safe and relaxing as possible for everyone?
Know before you go:
- Consult mom’s doctor
First things first, it’s important to make sure mom is healthy enough to take the trip. So make sure to have her cleared for travel by her primary care physician, especially if you will be dealing with any complex medical conditions, such as a heart issue or Alzheimer’s disease. Get specific travel tips from mom’s doctor and discuss any potential health complications. Also, make sure to get any necessary vaccinations or extra medication as needed.
- Research available medical services at your destination
In case of emergencies, make sure to check the location of the nearest pharmacies, hospitals, and other health care facilities, especially if you will be in an unfamiliar place. Also, take with you contact information for your loved one’s primary doctor as well as any important Medicare, insurance, and prescription information.
- Provide a way for dad to contact you easily
Make sure your cell number and the number of each place you will be staying is programed into dad’s cellphone. Or, if dad doesn’t have his own cellphone, providing him with a prepaid phone is a great way to ensure that he can get in touch with you at all times.
Cellphones are wonderful travel companions, but for additional peace of mind, nothing beats PBE’s Safe Anywhere service. With this service, mom or dad wears the eResponder on a pendant, which provides immediate, push-button connection and two-way voice communication with emergency services anywhere in the US.
- Plan a schedule that accommodates everyone
Whenever possible, maintain a predictable daily routine. This reduces stress and anxiety, especially for those with cognitive impairments. Keeping mealtimes, medication schedules, rest times, and sleeping schedules as consistent as possible minimizes the risk of agitation. Also, nothing makes a vacation feel less relaxing than rushing from place to place. So, build in extra time where needed, plan to take plenty of rest breaks, and make some quiet time a priority each day.
Traveling by car?
- Pack a bag of essentials (with necessary medications, important travel documents, favorite snacks and drinks, a light sweater, a hat, sunscreen) that is easily accessible at all times.
- On long road trips, make sure to take plenty of breaks for meals, stretching legs, and using the restroom.
- Plan to leave early in the morning. Many seniors and people with Alzheimer’s disease do not travel well in the late evening or at night because of what scientists call sundowning. Doctors believe that fading light can trigger in some elderly adults symptoms such as irritation, restlessness, confusion, and mood swings.
Traveling by air?
- Arrange for special services when booking flights (e.g., a wheelchair at the airport, special seating, advanced boarding).
- All US airports offer expedited TSA security screening for passengers 75 and older. Ask about these when checking in with the airline.
- Pack all medications in carry-on luggage. Liquid medications will need to be separated from other belongings for separate screening.
- Plan to arrive at the airport extra early, so mom and dad have time to get settled before boarding.
- For more air travel tips, look here.
Traveling with older adults is can be a truly rewarding experience. All it takes is a little extra preparation and a little extra help from your friends at PBE. So this summer, whether you’re headed to a graduation, wedding, family reunion, or other celebration, make sure you travel smart.