When deciding to travel, age should not get in the way of taking a trip. One’s health must be considered, yes, but the decision to go or not to go should not be based on age alone. One Aging Life Care Manager™ shares her story and lessons learned from traveling with her 91-year-old mother. As she writes, don’t miss out on the experience you can have together.
Flying through the Years: What I Almost Missed by Not Traveling with My 90-Something Mom
by Tracey Olson MSW, LCSW – Aging Life Care Association Member
Throughout the past few years, I found myself saying that it would be nice if my 91-year-old mother could visit her older brother in San Antonio or see my daughter in Los Angeles, I opined about how great it would be if…
But if what? Why couldn’t my mother travel from Chicago to San Antonio or Los Angeles? There is no travel ban for 91-year-olds, after all. I had simply believed travel was not an option for a ninety-year old. Hmmm, is that ageism? Surely an Aging Life Care Manager™ isn’t ageist?
My mother is healthy. She uses a walker, but besides that, is remarkably fit. We talked about the idea of her traversing around the country, and while she was apprehensive about flying, she desperately wanted to see her brother again and see the new place her granddaughter lived.
Before traveling a long distance with my mother, I asked her doctor’s opinion. The doctor said to go for it and made these suggestions:
- Take an aspirin an hour before the flight takes off to help keep blood flowing
- Drink lots of water
- When possible, get up and move around during the flight
- Wear support hose or compression stockings
We took trips to San Antonio and Los Angeles. In both cases, we had a third person traveling with us which did make everything easier. But, I would do it again by myself.
What were the highlights? My mother had a great time seeing her brother and his wife. They all took their walkers and went for a stroll on the San Antonio River Walk. At 91, my mother had never seen the Grand Canyon from the air and was truly amazed. She and I walked along the Santa Monica boardwalk together and she saw where her granddaughter lives. What could be better?
As far as a list of hints for traveling with an older adult, in truth, most things are just like planning any trip. For the best trip, I learned it is vital to go with flow—encourage it, even! My best suggestion is not to let age get in the way of taking that trip. Consider health, of course, but don’t make a decision not to go because of age.
Tips for Traveling with an Aging Adult:
1. Consult with the individual’s regular physician before traveling to address any health concerns or risks.
2. Pack carefully. Keep medicine in their original containers in your carry-on luggage. Pack an extra supply in the checked luggage. Keep insurance cards with you at all times.
3. When flying, order a wheelchair and indicate the person traveling has a disability and needs more time boarding and deplaning. The distance to and from the gate and the wait at security can be extremely tiring as well as a fall risk. The service is handled differently by various airlines, but all have the service escorts and transportation available.
4. When flying, check the luggage with a skycap at the curb if available. Don’t overload you or your loved one with carry-on bags. Choose a small bag with the medications, supplies and paperwork. When possible, use curbside check-in to access the wheel chair and escort before entering the airport.
5. Take preventative measures to prevent blood clots, such as taking an aspirin, drinking plenty of water, getting up and moving the body. Walk to the bathroom during a flight, or while driving, make scheduled stops at historic markers or rest stops along the route.
6. If you are renting a car:
- Bring the disability placard to use in the rental car for parking
- Consider renting a mini-van for easier entry/exit access and storage of a walker
- Take a taxi to the rental location for the extra assistance with luggage versus the often crowded shuttle
7. When booking hotel rooms, take into consideration:
- Before automatically booking the handicap-accessible room, make sure it will meet your needs. For us, the handicap-accessible rooms did not have a view.
- Ask about the bathroom safety features. Is there something you can bring or order ahead of time to make it safer (for example a shower chair).
- Select a hotel that you feel comfortable spending time in, offers good views, that is convenient to people you are visiting, or near activities that are planned.
- Choose a hotel that offers room service or an in-house restaurant.
8. Don’t overschedule activities and always include plenty of time to rest.
9. Have extra cash for tips (skycaps, bellmen, escorts). This will be money well spent and the extra assistance much appreciated.
10. Most importantly, remember that age doesn’t determine if you should or shouldn’t travel. Don’t limit yourself and your loved one and the experiences you can have together.
One unintended outcome was the trips seemed to give my mother some renewed self-confidence. When we returned home to Chicago she said, “I didn’t think I could do it, but now I know I can.” Indeed she can, and many other older adults can too.
Aging Life Care Managers™ are an excellent resource for assisting aging adults with traveling. From arranging an in-flight nurse to securing caregivers or aides at your destination, these professionals have the network to help make travel as stress-free and safe as possible.
About the author: Tracey Olson, is an Advanced Professional Aging Life Care™ Expert, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Masters Level. Tracey takes a strengths perspective – not just identifying and focusing on needs, but also on strengths – when working with older adult clients and their families. Tracey’s independent care management practice, AgeWell Solutions, is located in the Chicago suburbs.