Just because someone’s reached a certain age, it doesn’t mean they can no longer travel. Traveling with aging loved ones just take a little more planning and preparation. These tips for aging travelers will make traveling and vacationing more comfortable and less stressful for all involved.
There’s No Age Limit on Travel
By Patricia Charles, LMSW, CMC – Aging Life Care Association™ Member
Whether you have fond memories of lazy days on the beach or adventures in exotic locales, now that your loved one is getting older taking a family vacation may seem difficult. You may even wonder if your days of family vacations are over.
While your family vacation will be different than before, it doesn’t mean you can’t travel with an aging loved one. Let’s explore some tips to make vacationing easier for the older traveler.
1. Schedule a check-up.
An important first step is to make sure your loved one is cleared for travel by his or her primary care doctor, especially if they have a health condition that requires accommodation. Visiting the doctor before travels allows time to assess and address any medical conditions that could hinder travel plans.
If travel is taking you out of the country, your loved one may need vaccines recommended for the countries being visited. Check the Center for Disease Control for the most updated information on necessary shots required for specific countries. Take this information with you when you visit the doctor.
2. Compile a list of medications in advance.
Ask the doctor for specific travel tips as well as any necessary medications. In addition to keeping up regular medication regimen while traveling, the doctor may also recommend additional medications such as remedies for motion sickness, altitude illness, or diarrhea. Remember – it’s important to watch out for possible drug interactions between daily medications and any new medications that are recommended for travel!
If you are checking luggage, it’s recommended to travel with medications in a carry-on in case checked luggage is lost. Pack enough medicine for the duration of the trip, plus a few days extra in case of travel delays. Additionally, if your loved one has health concerns and you are traveling out of the country you may want to consider purchasing a travel health insurance package.
3. Strategize your flight times.
Older adults may not have the stamina to handle multiple connections and/or travelling early morning or late at night. Booking a nonstop flight reduces travel time, while planning a mid-morning or early afternoon departure can help avoid fatigue before you’ve reached your destination. Anticipate your loved one might be anxious about the travel experience, so talk to their doctor about a mild anxiety medication. Even the most experienced travelers can find travel to be an anxiety-inducing experience.
4. Request assistance ahead of time.
Before you travel, consider accommodations your loved one may need. Does he or she use a wheelchair or need special seating? You can request an escort from airport staff to help get your loved one to their seat, stow their bags, or simply enjoy the ease of boarding before other passengers.
Seniors are able to request assistance in the airport from the time they arrive to the time they board, and can request assistance getting to the gate by asking at the check-in desk for a ride on a cart or assistance with a wheelchair. Additionally, seniors requiring special assistance can board before other travelers through priority boarding.
Don’t forget to plan for accommodations at the destination as well! Contact hotels or tour companies to make sure they can handle your needs.
5. Plan activities sparingly.
When traveling with an older loved one you may have to take it slower than you normally would, accounting for time to rest and relax . Everyone is different, but in many cases planning just one activity before lunch is enough and include downtime between lunch and dinner. This same schedule often works well for families with young children, so inter-generational travel can work out surprisingly well!
Think about planning indoor activities, whether to account for possible bad weather or extreme temperatures, or because your loved one simply doesn’t feel up to going out one day. Building in time for watching old movies, playing card games, or creating a memory book of your travels are all possible activities.
If your loved one receives care at home and you will be traveling without hired assistance, speak with the caregiver to get some ideas about things they like to do, as well as their daily routine. And don’t forget to ask about favorite foods and snacks!
6. Consider hiring help.
An Aging Life Care Professional™ can help you develop a personalized plan for your travels including identifying potential challenges and options to make the best of your travels – even with medical and functional challenges. For example, a care manager can help connect you with companion help at your destination, secure durable medical equipment, and ensure you have appropriate documentation and accommodations in case of emergencies.
Finally, don’t forget to have the time of your life. Safe travels!
About the author: Patricia Charles, LMSW, CMC is the Lead Training Consultant with SeniorBridge. She has been a social work professional in nonprofit and philanthropic organizations for the past 30 years and a member of ALCA since 2008. She is a highly skilled Aging Life Care™ Manager, as well as a lecturer and educator. You can email Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow SeniorBridge on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.