A vacation is something everyone looks forward to. You work hard or go to school all year long and you need this time to have fun, rest, and rejuvenate. Taking a vacation is important for everyone in the family, including the older members of a household. The experience of a family vacation is only enhanced when grandparents are able to join-in on the fun with everyone else and they add a sentimental aspect to a vacation. Whether they are interacting with everyone or they want to have a little time alone together to reminisce and remember the time when they were young, inviting the older generation on a vacation helps make that time away a special and memorable event. It's also a great time to build or strengthen a bond between everyone in the family, and the best time to create wonderful memories for everyone in the group.
There are many reasons people enjoy having their parents/grandparents along on a family vacation but traveling with an elderly person can pose a few difficulties and it is wise to obtain information and to prepare ahead of time in the event of an unexpected moment or emergency.
Travel: Things to Consider when Traveling with an Elderly Person
Consult the Treating Doctor
Before embarking on any trip with your grandparents, make an appointment and consult with their treating doctor. Discuss whether they are medically able to fly or endure a long car ride and talk about their health. Find out things such as whether they are prone to blood clots and what should be done in preparation and during the trip if they are. Talk about all medications and ask if you can get a prescription to take with you in the event something happens to your grandparent's medications. Once you get the treating doctor's authorization, you can start planning the trip, and be sure to take along the doctor's contact information and your grandparent's insurance information.
Medications and Other Requirements
Make a list of all of your grandparent's medications, the dosage, and when each should be taken. Keep enough of the required medications in an area where you can get to them easily during the trip and pack the rest in a suitcase. Bring along a pill cutter in case the dosage must be cut in half. Don't forget to have enough water or juices for your grandparents to drink when taking their pills. Some medication must be taken with food, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks. Lastly, if medications require refrigeration, be sure to keep a cooler in your car and call ahead of time to make sure a refrigerator is available in your hotel room.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Travel
When planning the amount of time it will take to drive to your destination, remember to take into consideration that you may be making some extra stops along the way. Your elderly parents may need to take a few more bathroom breaks or get out and stretch their legs more often than you would.
Also remember that your parents will naturally move much slower than you and they may not hear as well. Thus, something that may take you 5 minutes to complete may take your parents/grandparents 15 minutes (or even more). Also, whatever you do, don’t rush them. If they could, they would love to move faster but they can't, so please be polite and understanding.
If a parent has problems with incontinence, be prepared to take several bathroom stops and have plenty of urinary or bowel incontinence products and extra clothes available. In addition, please be discreet and always treat your elderly loved ones with respect.
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Have Plenty of Items Available
Just as you would prepare for a trip with a toddler, make sure to have some water and snacks in the car. In addition, keep a sweater, small blanket and a pillow in the car in case your parents get cold and/or sleepy. If your parents enjoy books, you could give them an iPod downloaded with their favorite book or music. Or, if your car is equipped with a DVD player, bring along their favorite movies for them to enjoy on the road.
If you will be traveling by plane, bring as many of the above items as you can, plus other things that will keep your grandparents busy while they are waiting at the airport. Things such as magazines, a deck of cards, paper to draw or write letters, or anything that will hold their attention will make the waiting time fly by.
Hotel - Special Needs
When making the reservations at your hotel, advise them you will have elderly people in your party and discuss your parent’s special needs. Ask the hotel for a written confirmation of everything you discussed and call them a day prior to check-in to remind them of everything you requested.
Some items you might need are a room on the parking lot level so that your elderly parents or grandparents don’t have to climb the stairs. Keep this in mind even if the hotel has an elevator, because if there is an emergency or the elevator breaks down while you are staying there, the guests will have to use the stairs.
It's also a good idea to request a room that has a shower equipped with a handicapped safety rail to help prevent slip and falls in the shower. Make sure the room has a refrigerator to keep any medications. You might even want to ask if the hotel has medical equipment, such as wheelchairs.
Make sure someone is always with the elderly members of your group especially if they have a tendency to become disoriented. You may even consider giving your parents a bracelet or necklace to wear with your cell phone number engraved on it, in case they get lost and need someone to call you.
Plan Your Next Family Vacation Now
Traveling with an elderly person may be a bit more work but the reward is priceless. The experience of witnessing the joy grandparents feel as they interact with their grandchildren on vacation provides a tremendous satisfaction for everyone. In addition, you will have the opportunity to take beautiful, heartwarming photos that will become priceless to you as the years go by. You may even catch that perfect moment on film that you can share proudly with everyone.
So, although it can be challenging, the rewards of traveling with an older relative outweigh the demands. Go ahead, make those plans for your next family vacation and don’t forget to invite the grandparents!
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