Summer is often the time for those much enjoyed family get aways. So you may be planning a special trip with an elderly loved one. It can be one of the most rewarding adventures you will take. You will build many fond memories and experience wonderful things together. Planning in advance for the added care necessary to ensure safe, comfortable travel is an important part of making the trip a success for all involved. Here are a few ideas that will help you enjoy the journey and keep the stress levels low. You can also ask your loved one’s primary care physician or your Yolo Hospice care team if you have additional questions about travel.
Step 1 – Where and How to Travel
Plan well in advance if possible. Include your loved one in the planning process as much as you can. Time spent planning will reduce stress and make your loved one more comfortable through the process of getting from here to there. If you are considering travel for shear pleasure, look into tours and cruises that specifically cater to elderly and disabled people.
If you are traveling to visit family and friends, simply give yourself enough time to attend to all the pre-travel arrangements that must be considered. If a passport is necessary, allow 8-10 weeks for that process to be completed. Also, make sure the people at your destination have considered your loved one’s needs while they are staying as a guest – dietary needs, sleeping arrangements, local emergency contacts should all be a part of the plan.
Research all travel options before deciding which would be the best option. If air travel is the ticket for your journey, sign your elderly loved one up for a frequent flyer program in advance of booking flights. They may receive discount fares and special accommodations that will make the trip easier. Book refundable tickets if it is an option in case of last minute health issues or at least understand what the consequences are for changing or cancelling tickets.
Request and reserve special services ahead of time and confirm these services a day or two ahead of the actual departure. These might include special meals, wheelchair or electric cart services, special seating or human assistance if your loved one is traveling alone.
Step 2 – Prepare all Documentation
Okay. So you know where you are going and how you are getting there, now comes the paperwork. As stated earlier, if a passport is needed take care of that first as it requires weeks to get it. If a passport is not necessary, then a photo I.D. will suffice.
You will want to make sure your loved one is cleared by their physician to travel. If you don’t already have one, a medical summary of your loved one’s condition should go along in your carry-on luggage. Include any medications necessary for the trip along with contact information for their primary physician and other healthcare providers.
Step 3 – Let’s talk Security, Safety and Comfort
Medications must be in their original containers so avoid those cute, daily pill packs. If liquid meds are involved, ask the pharmacist to put them in 3 oz. containers so they can pass through security. The TSA will authorize larger quantities, but you are required to seek this authorization well in advance. EpiPens are allowed as long as the seal is in tact.
It’s a good idea to have your loved one wear their medical identification bracelet or necklace if they have one. It can be life saving for emergency people to know about severe allergies or illnesses like diabetes. For dementia patients travelling, it is a good idea, if you haven’t already, to have them registered with MedicAlert or Safe Return. If respiratory issues are a concern, make sure oxygen will be made available if necessary and carry an inhaler as a precaution.
Medical Equipment needed for the trip should also be considered. First, be aware that hearing aids and hip and knee replacements usually don’t affect security equipment, but it is a good idea to notify the TSA so they are aware before trying to make it through security checks.
External equipment such as crutches, walkers and canes can be maneuvered through security and stored easily on the plane. Advance notice to the airline when booking the flight always helps so airline personnel know that a little extra time might be needed. You can make arrangements for wheelchairs or electric cart transportation at the time you book your travel. If your loved one is bound to a wheelchair, you will want to make sure you are on a plane with double aisles or the bathrooms will not be accessible during the flight. Plan accordingly. Here’s a very useful website to research wheelchair access when traveling (http://disabledtravelers.com)
Step 4 – Day of Travel
The day of you adventure should be a fun-filled day. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to the airport. Curbside check-in is a plus for you as caregiver so you expend as little time as possible lugging suitcases. Your hands will be full as it is. Layer clothing for maximum comfort. Have high protein snacks, reading materials, cell phone charger and a camera to record the trip. Keep yourself and your loved one hydrated. However, be aware of the need for bathroom breaks as well. If your loved one is able, have them walk whenever possible because travel involves a lot of sitting around. If your loved one is traveling alone, make sure someone reminds them about taking medications during their travels.
With proper preparation, your trip will give you and your loved one many precious memories. If you have concerns about traveling or need help while you are traveling, Yolo Hospice is here to help.