Offering to travel with your elderly parents is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Not only do they get to spend time with their child, but if you have children, they will be able to enjoy precious time experiencing new destinations with their grandchildren. Traveling with your parents will help create amazing memories for everyone in your group.
However, traveling with an elderly parent can sometimes present concerns, including mobility issues, access to necessary medications and dietary needs. Here are some tips to help when traveling with elderly counterparts.
Depending upon how old your parents are, this trip you are planning could be one of the last they get to enjoy with you. Involve them in the planning process and ask where they would like to go. There may be a destination on their bucket list that you and your family would enjoy going to.
It may also be necessary to check with your parent’s physician to ensure your parent is capable of traveling. There may be limitations and restrictions as to where he or she may be able to visit, based on medical and physical conditions.
When planning your vacation, call hotels, restaurants, airlines and other travel companies ahead of time. Make arrangements for any special needs, including mobility requirements, dietary selections and other services that will be needed while traveling.
Elderly parents may have difficulty lifting and maneuvering heavy suitcases. Select a lightweight suitcase with wheels. Plus, only pack what is needed and try to keep everything in a single, carry-on bag. Essentials include toiletries, lightweight sweaters, something to read and clothing.
Gather your parents’ travel documents before leaving. Keep these items in a secure location and keep them with you while traveling. If you have their documentation, there is less of a risk they misplace it while traveling. Also, make copies of everything and put them in your suitcase or leave them at home with another family member. This will make it easier to replace passports, driver’s licenses and other identifications should they go missing.
Also, make copies of any insurance cards, including medical (Medicare) and auto policies. Keep a copy with you while traveling and keep a copy at home in a safe place.
Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications in the same bag. Make sure to keep prescription medications in their original containers and bring copies of all prescriptions or have a doctor’s note authorizing each medication your parent needs to take. This will prevent any issues when proving the drugs you are bringing with you legally belong to your parent.
Time can fly by while traveling and things can easily be forgotten. Set an alarm to remind you when it is time for your parent to take his or her medication.
Research different medical facilities where you will be traveling to. Check ahead of time which ones will take your parent’s medical insurance. This way, if something happens while there, you will already know the best place to go for medical assistance.
Make it possible to do everything your parent wants to see and do while traveling. Look into senior discounts on transportation, tours, accommodations and dining reservations. The money you save on these items will make it possible to experience additional tours and activities while traveling.
Think about your parent’s personal security and make plans to conceal money and travel documents while traveling. Consider using a money belt or fanny pack that goes under clothing, instead of a bulky bag or purse.
Speak with the concierge desk of your hotel to find out if there are any special activities, tours or events for seniors. If there is, book your parent for one of these activities. This will give you time to enjoy the destination and will give your parents a chance to spend time with others their age.
Although you want to plan a lot of activities for everyone to do while traveling, you also want to make plans to slow down and take a break. Schedule at least an hour a day where nothing is planned and everyone can relax by the pool or in the room.
Take a few extra planning steps, especially if you are traveling with a parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Discuss several times with your parent what to expect when traveling. This includes what to expect when driving, flying and checking into a hotel. Also, if possible, try to stick to a routine that is similar to your parent’s routine back home.
Just like traveling with your children, traveling with your elderly parents can be a fun and exciting experience. It can also be a stressful one. Take the time to appropriately plan and prepare everyone in your party about what to expect when traveling with your elderly parents. Knowing ahead of time what to expect will help reduce the chances of getting stressed out when something goes wrong.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.