Summer travel with seniors

by John Baldwin, FLT Columnist

Summers are often the ideal time for family caregivers to take their senior loved ones on vacation, to reunions or on group outings with family and friends. Travel can be physically and emotionally stressful at any age, so planning ahead will help ensure older adults stay safe and comfortable on the trip.

Many seniors eagerly look forward to summer traveling, but also can feel overwhelmed and nervous about getting to their destination and enjoying their stay. With a few pre-trip action steps, older adults can relax and enjoy their time away without incident.

The following is a list of summer travel tips to assist senior adults whether driving, flying, taking a train or riding a bus.

  • About a month before traveling, be sure the senior consults with his/her doctor to discuss any special health needs, refill prescriptions to last through the trip and update any necessary vaccinations. If the older adult has a chronic medical condition, ask the doctor to write an overview of the loved one’s medical history and provide medication instructions in case of emergency treatment away from home.
  • Know your elderly loved one’s physical limitations. Make sure the senior gets plenty of rest before and during travel. In the excitement of the journey, it’s easy to overdo and pack in too many activities each day. Take frequent breaks.
  • Make use of travel resources. When purchasing tickets or detailing an itinerary for the trip, plan ahead for accommodations and any dietary, mobility or medical needs. Even if your older loved one does not usually require mobility assistance, walking longer distances in airports or train or bus terminals can quickly exhaust seniors. Also, check whether restrooms are easily accessible and consider aisle seats for easier maneuverability. Contact airlines, rental car companies and hotels about your senior’s special needs and allowing assistive medical equipment including oxygen tanks.
  • Pack for the worst-case scenario. Keep all of the senior’s prescription medications with you at all times. It may be tempting to carry only the pills your loved one will need for traveling to your destination and to store the rest in a checked bag, but travel delays or scheduling issues are common.
  • Ensure the senior carries essentials. During the journey to your destination and when traveling about each day, be sure the older adult keeps a bag with the following handy: water bottle, medications, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, sweater/jacket and proper identification.
  • Verify phone numbers with relatives and friends, and update emergency contact information in your cell phone, in case you need to reach relatives.
  • Dress for comfort. In warmer weather, be sure the senior wears lightweight clothing in light colors to reduce overheating. Loose, comfortable clothing is best for traveling seniors to help with optimal circulation. If the elderly loved one is at risk for blood clots when sitting for long periods, ask if his/her doctor recommends wearing compression stockings while traveling.
  • Avoid direct sun and too much heat. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Be sure your older loved one stays hydrated and wears sunscreen and a hat.
  • Prevent picking up germs and illnesses. Wash your hands frequently and carry a hand sanitizer. Staying in a hotel and frequenting public places leave the entire family susceptible to exposure to extra germs and sickness. Skip traveling overseas to regions suffering an outbreak of contagious disease.
  • Consider travel health insurance. If your senior is traveling abroad, make sure you understand what your loved one’s health insurance does and does not cover. Medicare and many health plans do not pay for health services received outside the United States. For older adults traveling abroad, consider getting travel health insurance to cover emergency medical and dental services or medical evacuation.
  • Visit tourist sites, public places and restaurants during non-peak times. Crowded, noisy surroundings can be difficult for seniors’ hearing and mobility.
  • Let travel apps guide you. The plethora of travel apps for smartphones can point out directions, keep track of trip expenses, and provide weather information and much more.

When planning a trip, include your loved one in the planning from the beginning so he/she can communicate personal needs and travel interests and feels included. If your senior may need more assistance than you will be able to provide, consider hiring a caregiver to travel with you. Senior care companies like Right at Home, Perrysburg, Ohio can offer senior care travel services.

The Perrysburg Office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving the communities of Wood, Lucas and parts of Sandusky counties. For more information, contact Right at Home of Perrysburg at http://www.rahnwohio.com, 567-336-6062 or by email at jbaldwin@rahnwohio.com.