Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Traveling with an elderly parent—tips and ideas to make it safe and enjoyable.

By Bob Gregory

The Holidays are upon us and it’s time to make those travel arrangements!  It is always exciting to visit friends and family during the Holidays or to simply take a vacation, but traveling with an elderly parent can present its challenges.  If it’s your first time traveling with an elderly parent, then there are a few things you should know that will help make your trip safe and enjoyable for all.

Here are some tips and ideas for your consideration:
Family convergence
Family convergence (Photo credit: Sarah Ross photography)

  1. Make sure your parent(s) are up to the trip both physically and mentally.  Elderly parents will often over extend themselves to accommodate the family so as not to be a burden.  Be sure to have an honest discussion with your parent about the trip and make sure they truly want to go.  Discuss options with your parent if they choose not to go and make sure the alternatives do not come off as a punishment for not making the trip.  If they are on board, then get a check up with their physician to be sure there are no health issues that would prevent them from making the trip and to allow you to address any medical needs while on the trip. 

  1. Give your parent(s) plenty of time to make the decision whether or not to take the trip.  For many elders, traveling is a bit scary and they need time to get comfortable with the decision to travel or the decision to pass.  Make sure you give them the itinerary so they know what the trip will entail.  Be sure and have frequent discussions but do not pressure them for a decision.  Let them know the deadline for their answer and give them gentle reminders as the deadline to decide approaches.

  1. Plan your trip and have a set itinerary so you and your elderly parent(s) know exactly what you will be doing.  If you are considerate, you will make sure the trip is not too fast paced or rigorous so that your parent will be able to keep up and enjoy the trip.  If your parent has issues walking for long periods at a time, you may want to consider having a wheelchair available and discuss this with them in advance so it is not a surprise.  If the trip is an extended trip of a week or more, plan a day or two of rest.

    Grandma & Jennifer in Rental Boat
    Grandma & Jennifer in Rental Boat (Photo credit: rickpilot_2000)
  1. Accommodations are often a big issue and can cause trepidation if your parent is not capable of staying alone in a separate room.  Consider a suite with two rooms so each of you can have your privacy but you can be available to assist your parent when needed.  Keep in mind that even though a room is equipped to handle handicapped guests, not all accommodations are the same and you should consult the hotel directly regarding the type of accommodations your parent will need.  You may also want to check trip advisor sites as well for recommendations of elder-friendly hotels.  Request special services in advance so there are no surprises when you arrive.  Be sure you have access to foods your parent may need if they are on a special diet.  If the hotel cannot handle special diet needs, pack what you need and be sure the hotel room has a refrigerator to store the food and a kitchenette so you can prepare the meals. 

  1. Prescriptions should be filled and carefully packed so you can easily access them.  Be sure you have consulted the physician and you know how and when to administer the medication.  Don’t rely on your parent to remember what to take and when to take it as travel can cause exhaustion which can easily lead to confusion.  It is always advisable to travel with the prescription bottles so you do not have issues at security check points and you can assure you will have an ample supply in case your trip gets extended.

  1. Pack carefully as you need to expect the unexpected!  Check the weather forecast for the area you are visiting but be prepared for inclement weather.  Try not to over pack as you may find yourself juggling heavy bags and your parent at the same time.  Help your parent unpack when you arrive and do not attempt to let them “live” out of a suit case.  It is advisable to make a schedule of outfits your parent will wear on each day so they feel confident they have proper and adequate clothing without over packing.

    Florida Vacation #07
    Florida Vacation #07 (Photo credit: Lynda Giddens)
  1. Transportation to your destination needs special consideration.  If you are traveling by car, plan plenty of rest stops for stretching the legs and bathroom breaks.  Give yourself plenty of travel time so you do not feel pressure to drive long periods of time without a break.  If you are traveling by air, then remember all the security requirements that may be a challenge such as removing all jackets or sweaters, removing shoes, examination of carry-on bags, physical screenings and proper identification.  Discuss these carefully with your parent and make sure they are up to challenge!

  1. Security is a concern for all but especially when traveling with an elderly parent.  The elderly seem to be a popular target for pick pockets and robbers so you need to watch your parent carefully.  Make sure they do not carry lots of cash, credit cards or jewelry while out sightseeing.  Offer to carry their wallet or cash on your person so they do not have the risk of pick pockets or purse snatchers.  Also, don’t overlook the possibility of your parent getting separated and lost.  If they do not have a cell phone, you may want to get one for them even if it is a disposable prepaid phone and show them how to use it.  Discuss with your parent what to do in the event they become separated so that you can easily recover them.

Traveling with an elderly parent can be challenging but it can also be very rewarding and enjoyable if you plan carefully.  I hope some of these tips and ideas help make your Holiday trip a little less stressful and a whole lot more enjoyable!  In the event your parent is not up to travel, there are options for them to stay behind without being alone such as using Adult Day Care centers or reserving a short-term room at an Assisted Living Facility. If you would like to obtain a list of Adult Day Care centers or Assisted Living Facilities in your area that meet your needs, please consider .

If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 
We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If you find you need Adult Day Care, Assisted Living Facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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