“Vacations are extremely important for family bonding and mental recharging—even more so when you care for an aging parent,” Mission Home Car director Kerry Pawlsaid.
“However, many people avoid it altogether due to the stress they think will occur when travelling with frail seniors—this doesn’t have to be the case.”
In today’s ageing population, it seems like cruising is the best way to go for seniors – they step in, they sit, they watch the world pass by and they have a cup of tea. However, if the idea of spending ten or so days in a cabin with your parent or letting them go on their own isn’t what you are looking for, then here are some tips that will help you plan a land based getaway with an elderly person.
Doctor Contact Information: Take the elderly person to your GP or their specialist doctor for approval of travel. Make sure that you have your doctor’s contact details both somewhere as a hard copy as well as a digital copy saved online. Don’t rely on finding your doctor’s contact info on Google just in case it isn’t up to date.
Medication: Ensure that you have enough prescription medication to last for the entirety of the trip, plus a little bit more. It is best to carry the ‘important’ drugs in several different bags so that you always have some on you and so that there is a backup in case something happens to your luggage or you lose a packet.
Prescription: Have a few copies of the prescription: one in your hand luggage, one in your checked-in luggage and a digital copy saved to an email or somewhere else that you can access online. This is especially important as certain medication ingredients are illegal in various countries and having a prescription (translated if you can) could help your case in such an instance.
Caregiver: Hiring a caregiver to travel with you can definitely be worth it, even if you only pay them for a few hours a day to stay with the elderly person. Caregivers are trained in assisting with everything from going to the bathroom to eating a meal and will probably get less frustrated in certain situations.
Before you Book
Accommodation Access: I once read a review by an elderly couple who were really excited by a hotel which was described as being in a Victorian building in England; however when they arrived they found out that their room was on the fifth floor and the historic house had no elevators, so they had to leave. Therefore, although a place may sound nice and charming, make sure that it has a working elevator or your room will be on the ground floor and that it has wheelchair access if need be.
Transport Access: There are many train stations in the world that are simply not equipped for persons with mobility issues so think twice before catching a train as there might be unavoidable stairs or long distances between platforms, and account for lots of taxi’s or hire a car, when planning how you will get around.
Consider an Upgrade: Even if it’s only for your parent, consider getting them an upgrade to business class when flying: not only will they be more comfortable but they will also have less queues to wait in for the bathroom and will be able to get more attention from the cabin crew. The only downside is that you will not be able to visit them throughout the journey.
Wheelchair: Request wheelchair assistance with every flight you take – this will help you both physically as well as make getting around quicker with the help of the assistant.
Culture: When choosing where to travel to, try to keep the culture shock to a minimum as that will help relieve the stress and decrease potential confusion. If you absolutely must see India then perhaps watch ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” before booking any trips with an elderly parent.
Food: Consider the type of food that will be served at the destination that you are travelling to: will there be access to food that your parents are used to or will it be easier to book a property with a kitchen?
Weather: The elderly tend to not do well in extreme weather so a beach resort with a stable 35° temperature may not be ideal, nor will a winter wonderland where it is easy to slip and fall.
On the Road
Start with Short Trips: Once you arrive at your destination, take a few short trips to help your parents acclimatise to the place and take note on how they do: did they need to stop often, were they interested or not interested in something, did particular transport options work better than others? Picking up on little things will help you plan the pace and activities for the rest of your holiday.
Activities: Walking tours or even exploring on your own can be quite quick in pace and obviously involve a lot of walking. If your parent is less mobile but still interested in seeing all the sites then hire a private tour in a mini bus from your hotel or if you speak a language other than English then ensure that your guide can communicate with your entire group effectively. Hiring a private tour will allow you to control the pace of your tour and you will be travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle.
Toilet Breaks: Account for frequent toilet breaks and try to find a map with public toilets included on it. Alternatively stay close to shopping centres, especially if the area that you are travelling in primarily uses squat toilets.
Do you have any tips on travelling with an elderly person?