Many aging adults require extra support, whether with self-care tasks or medical assistance, but that doesn’t mean they can’t join their families on trips. With the right plan in place, you can ensure not just a smooth traveling experience but an enjoyable vacation too.
But before you depart, we recommend thinking about the unique needs and care requirements of your loved one. Alliance Homecare is here to offer guidance and support for seniors and their families. Find valuable tips and important considerations below.
Traveling with Seniors: Accessibility, Safety, Transportation, and Medical Care
Vacationing with aging parents or grandparents might seem like a daunting excursion, but it doesn’t have to be.
Whether you’re going on a short road trip, traveling overseas, visiting an all-inclusive resort, boarding a cruise ship, or something in between, the following considerations can help set you up for success.
#1 Research the Destination
Before booking your trip, we recommend researching the destination, as well as potential alternatives. Some seniors struggle to climb stairs, walk more than a short distance, and stand for long periods, while others may need the support of a wheelchair, walker, or cane.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations require public facilities in the U.S. to accommodate disabled individuals with things like ramps, wide entries, automatic doors, and grab bars in bathrooms. However, there are some exceptions, and many tourist attractions outside the country aren’t up to speed.
Mobility can be a challenge when traveling with seniors. Nearly anywhere is possible, but you’ll want to plan ahead and note certain activities or places that may not be ideal for your loved one.
#2 Pack Smart
Whether you’re anticipating a long flight, drive, or train ride, make sure to pack accordingly. Sitting for an extended period may lead to numbness or blood-clotting issues for elderly individuals. Supportive stockings can help, but we recommend checking with a healthcare provider about other preventative measures.
Bring plenty of water, too, as dehydration is a potential health concern for a senior traveler. We also recommend packing lightweight, layerable clothing and keeping a change on-hand anytime you leave your hotel or rental home. Lastly, medications should be clearly labeled (or potentially presorted in a pill organizer) and readily available.
#3 Consider Transportation
Arriving at your destination is one thing, but you’ll also want to think about how your party will get around while you’re there. Will you be driving a rental car, taking public transportation, riding in cabs, or using a ride-share service?
In any case, consider how your aging family member will get in and out of each vehicle and whether frequent stops will be necessary. Also, if they use a cane, wheelchair, or walker, find out if or how it can be brought along.
#4 Create an Accommodating Itinerary
Beyond your chosen destination and means of transportation, it’s also important to create an accommodating itinerary.
This means considering:
- When your loved one wakes up and goes to bed
- What time they typically eat meals
- Whether they have dietary restrictions
- What types of attractions they’re able to see
- Which facilities accommodate people with limited mobility
- How much standing or walking is involved with each activity
- How many events and activities are feasible for a given day
- Whether restrooms are accessible at each location
Some aging adults may be content sitting out certain activities. Still, they might need someone else to stay back with them. If you’re not sure which things they’ll be able to do, we recommend having a conversation before creating the itinerary.
#5 Schedule Rest Periods
An accommodating itinerary should include plenty of rest periods. Consider your aging loved one’s physical capacity not only in terms of mobility but also their stamina and energy levels. If you have two or more activities planned in a day, be sure to leave breaks in between.
You can expect each day to be a little different too. A senior traveler might be up for sightseeing one day and then much more tired the next. Walking or standing for long periods could also drain their energy or even leave them sore for a day or two.
#6 Allot Plenty of Time
Be sure to allot plenty of time not just on the day of departure but for every event throughout your trip. Whether your family member needs a wheelchair or is able to walk on their own, you can generally expect each checkpoint to take a little longer than usual—from getting in and out of cars and going through airport security to boarding a plane and getting ready each morning.
#7 Have a Plan for Medications
If your senior family member takes medications, be sure to have a plan in place for packing, transporting, and taking them. We suggest checking in with their healthcare provider to ensure they can fill their prescriptions beforehand or while away if needed.
It’s a good idea to also ask about potential food interactions, so you know what to avoid when eating out. Additionally, their provider can recommend whether or not to adjust their medication schedule for a different time zone.
#8 Keep Important Documents on Hand
When traveling with a senior, you’ll want to keep all essential documents on hand and organized. This includes a passport or another government-issued ID, as well as Medicare and medical insurance cards (or at least a photo of this information).
If your aging family member doesn’t use a smartphone (and even if they do), you may want to print out their boarding pass and itinerary for easier access. It might be a good idea to have a copy of their prescriptions too.
#9 Check the Vaccine Requirements
If you’re going on an overseas trip, certain vaccinations might be required beforehand. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see what’s required for your destination and how far in advance you need to get a vaccine before traveling abroad.
#10 Keep Up the Communication
Traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can be a challenge, but it’s not out of the question. Your best bet is to communicate with them about each activity before it starts and try to keep it simple instead of overloading them with information.
#11 Arrange for a Medical Travel Companion
At Alliance Homecare, we offer Medical travel companions to accompany older travelers and their families on trips to provide support and care as needed. They can help with things like medication management, bathing, dressing, grooming, transferring, and wound care.
The extra assistance gives families peace of mind about traveling with aging adults while ensuring they’re cared for every step of the way. Whether you need 24/7 support or help a few hours a day, it can make a world of difference.
If you’re unsure about traveling with a senior, contact their healthcare provider before making any plans. In the event they advise against a trip, Alliance can offer respite care or in home nurse care to fill in for caregiving family members while they’re away.
Contact us today to learn more about our customized care plans.