Travelling with an elderly parent

Guest column.

As the child of an ailing parent, providing comfortable and compassionate care is a daily struggle. Despite physical and mental limitations, many parents who are dependent on their children appreciate the opportunity to travel. When planning your summer travel, preparation is key. Although traveling with a sick or frail loved one can be stressful, it also creates new opportunities to bond with your mother or father.

Talk to Your Parent’s Physician

Before heading out on a significant summer trip, get the all-clear from the doctor to make sure your mom or dad is in strong enough physical and mental condition to handle the trip. Ask about prescription medications to make sure that you have enough to make it through the vacation. Bring copies of prescriptions, documentation about metallic implants (for passing through metal detectors) and information about physicians at your destination.

Prepare for Plane Travel

One of the most daunting parts of modern air travel is making it through security. Many older adults, especially those with disabilities, become anxious about passing through required security lines. The Transportation Security Association recommends calling at least 72 hours before travel to coordinate support at the airport. The toll-free TSA Cares phone number is 1-855-787-2227. Agents can provide specific information about your parent’s security screening process and personal needs. Keep all prescription medications in carry-on luggage in case your checked bags get lost.

Be Realistic

Ten years ago, your mom might have happily wandered the streets of Paris for hours each day. Now, physical limitations or poorer stamina will limit the scope of your vacation. Be realistic about the appropriate duration of the vacation as well as the activities you plan. Build in several rest days for sitting at a cafe or enjoying a restaurant. Call ahead to ask about assistance at airports, hotels and any travel sites you visit to ensure they are accessible for your parent.

Ask for Assistance

Trying to plan and execute a vacation on your own can be a recipe for exhaustion. As the caregiver for your parent, you need time to relax as well. One way to ensure that the summer trip goes smoothly for you and your parent is to enlist the services of a personal support worker. Consider bringing a PSW from your area, or contact a reputable agency at your intended destination to receive help from a qualified professional.

Pack Smart

Remember that as the caregiver, you will be responsible for arranging luggage transport and coordinating your parent’s personal needs. Making a packing list for your parent or doing his or her packing yourself ensures that you won’t be overburdened. Pack layers of clothing, even if you are headed to a warm destination, as many older adults get chilled easily. Pack reading materials and playing cards to alleviate boredom.

Many caregivers are surprised to find that they connect with their ailing parent in a new, special way when taking a vacation together. Summer travel can be a great way to alleviate stress and create new memories. Whether you are visiting relatives or traveling someplace new, planning ahead will ensure that your trip flows smoothly.