Sometimes you travel because you want to, sometimes because you need to. Whatever the reason, planning a trip can be logistical nightmare for caregivers.
Being responsible for an elderly loved one can mean adopting a rather rigid schedule and lifestyle, especially if you are the primary caregiver. How, then, do you travel? It can be a logistical nightmare, whether the travel is elective or necessary. Regardless, understanding some of the challenges and workarounds in advance can make the travel more manageable. The New Old Age blog at The New York Times recently offered some food for thought on this important subject.
The big question is whether your elderly parent is traveling with you. If the travel involves you alone for business or pleasure, then you still may need to replace yourself while away. Perhaps you already have someone who assists with care. If yes, find out whether they can temporarily stay on full-time since they already know your parent and their needs. If no, then contact an in-home care organization, as many offer temporary services. Don’t overlook assisted-living or nursing homes, too. They might offer temporary stay options. Finally, there is the more difficult (but less expensive) option of coordinating a schedule of volunteer (or recruited) family members and friends. Note: Care must be taken since everyone needs to know the schedule and understand the care requirements.
If your elderly loved will be traveling with you – such as for a family vacation or even to a care facility – then there are additional considerations, but at least you will be the one there to run interference. Of course, the first hurdle is whether they can travel. You’ll want to contact their doctor to get their opinion. In addition, this will give you a greater appreciation of challenges you may not have addressed.
While you’re at it, medications ought to be first and foremost on your mind. Running low on a medication mid-trip can be risky at best and deadly at worst. It may be difficult getting a prescription filled, as well. It may be advisable to take extra quantities of virtually everything from pills to Depends.
In regards to other details, make schedules for everything to maintain consistency from meals to rest breaks to bathroom breaks. Remember: When flying, consider asking for a wheelchair in the terminal, even if it is not expressly needed. Why? The wheelchair can help make transporting your elderly loved one much easier and, on many airlines, it can help you get to the front of the boarding line.
While the original post has even more specific ideas and instructions, the general rule of thumb is to think about the little details and to plan for them, whether you’re leaving your elderly loved on at home or you’re traveling together, it will make a world of difference.
Reference: The New York Times (September 15, 2011) “When It’s Time to Hit the Road”
Tags: aging parent, assisted living, caregiver, elder care, nursing homes, travel