Vacationing With Your Senior Loved One
Last year at this time, few people were even considering hitting the road for a vacation. Even at the beginning of Summer 2021, there was some hesitation. But reports are that many people in the U.S. now are seeking to make up for lost time. Many flights are full again, and other people are hitting the highways and packing the National Parks.
A change of scenery to a scenic location sounds great to most people. Many are focused on traveling to visit older loved ones they might not have seen since the pandemic began. And then there are family caregivers, who’ve worked so hard to keep their loved ones safe and could surely use could use a break.
Is it possible to combine caregiving and vacationing? If your loved one is able, traveling with them could be a great way for both of you to have a change of scene and perhaps reunite with other family members.
Tips to Make Your Travel a Success
Traveling with an aging parent can require some extra planning. You’ll want to consult with your loved one’s doctor to be sure the trip you plan is recommended, both in light of the still-real COVID threat, your loved one’s health conditions, and any physical limitations. Once the doctor approves the trip, here are six tips that can make it a success:
1. Be sure you and your loved one are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that two weeks after their last vaccine dose, it is safe for most people to travel. Learn about travel restrictions and safety requirements in the area where you will be staying, and follow the requirements of the destination, the airline, and the facilities where you’ll be.
2. Make it a family affair. If you’re the primary caregiver for your loved one, you might plan a trip to visit, or a vacation with, other family members. This can not only provide a much-cherished reunion for your loved one but also give you a bit of a break when there are others to visit with and supervise the well-being of your loved one while you go for a run or sightseeing. If it’s safe, include younger family members in the plan—chances are seeing them would be at the top of your loved one’s travel wishes! Remember, your plans should keep the needs and preferences of everyone in mind.
3. Pack and plan for your loved one’s special needs. Before you hit the road, make sure your loved one has all their medications and health accessories, such as hearing aids, walker, and oxygen. If you’re flying, contact the airline in advance to arrange for a wheelchair or other assistance your loved one may need. Notify the security agent if your loved one has a metal joint implant or a pacemaker. If you’ll be flying or will be elsewhere where masks are required, be sure you have several for each of you.
4. Pack lightly. You’ll most likely need to help carry your loved one’s bags, make sure they have their travel documents, and perhaps provide restroom and other assistance. So you won’t want to be struggling with too much luggage. Encourage your loved one to take only essentials. No need for either of you to bring an extensive wardrobe, unless you’re going to a special event like a wedding. If that’s the case, ship a box ahead if you can. Make sure you have anything that your loved one will need while traveling, such as medications, snacks, incontinence supplies, and a water bottle, in a bag that can be carried on board, if flying, or be within easy reach during a long car trip.
5. Plan some downtime. Once you’ve reached your destination, make it a point to plan some time to unwind. Let your loved one know that each day will include some time for a nap, or just sitting, relaxing, and reading a book. Setting this expectation will not only provide you with more free time but will also let your loved one know that there’s no expectation to “go, go, go” for the whole trip. On the other hand, be sure to get some exercise every day, as well.
6. Enjoy yourself. If you’re an adult child who doesn’t see your parent often, this is a special time to enjoy their company along with the pleasures of the trip. Focus on your time together and recognize it as an opportunity to reconnect and grow closer. If you’re a caregiver who sees your parent every day, appreciate the change of scenery—sometimes that can inspire memories and closeness more than happen during your daily routine.