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5 Tips for Traveling with an Elder

February 2nd, 2011 | Posted in Advocacy 101
The joys of traveling are abundant and only increase when you share the experience with a loved one. Traveling with an elderly parent can be a satisfying experience, but requires forethought, organization and preparation. From mobility to medication, the tips below will make your travel a breeze.
Travel, whether domestic or international, can wear on a person, make them anxious or bring stress, especially one with physical limitations or general health concerns. It is important to make sure the entire journey is as relaxed and comfortable as possible for the elderly travelers. Follow the tips below to ensure you and your parent have a comfortable and pleasurable experience.
Get your parents involved from the beginning.
Planning a vacation is exciting and it is important that your parent be involved from the beginning. Not simply a passive witness, the more included your parent is the less anxious he or she will feel about the process as a whole. Also, with early and often communication, you and your parent can work out what health-related issues need to be accommodated. Perhaps your parent would prefer to be seated near a restroom or might require a wheelchair due to limited mobility. Take note if your parent has a history of heart health problems, and be sure to get confirmations from all airlines that there will be a defibrillator accessible on the plane.
Make mobility arrangements early.
Long distance travel is the most stressful. It may require multiple flight connections or changing modes of transportation from one location to the next via trains, automobiles, buses or cruise ships. Ensure that any of your parent’s mobility needs, such as needing a wheelchair during travel or golf cart transportation through the airport, is planned for and confirmed in advance. Also, to minimize any discomfort for the more able-bodied, you may want to insist on bringing with you a folding walker or collapsible cane to decrease your parent’s joint pressure while walking through airport terminals or on train platforms.
Pack for all contingencies.
All modes of transportation can be affected by weather issues that may delay take-off schedules. Therefore, it is important to take a proactive role during these waiting periods. Keep varied reading material with you, or small electronic game devices, a deck of cards or even music players to pass the time. In addition to being fun, the distraction will help ease the anxiousness and stress of unexpected delays.
Maintain medication schedules.
Ensure that all doctor-prescribed medication that your parent will need to take while on vacation is organized by day and packed safely in your carry-on luggage. For diabetic patients needing to carry insulin and needles, be careful to pack them safely according to the guidelines of the travel medium and not in violation of any carry-on restrictions. Patients with high blood pressure should make sure the batteries in their handheld blood-sugar monitor is removed and packaged according to safety guidelines. You may also want to bring along over the counter medications such as Aspirin, allergy medication, nasal decongestive pills or anti-diarrheal tablets as a precaution.
Prevent travel-related health issues.
Long periods of sitting can lead to muscle inactivity that places stress on joints in the body. It is important to encourage your parent to stand up mid-flight, walk the isles and stretch their limbs. Another important travel issue is keeping elderly travelers hydrated, especially those with diabetes, and not with caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Besides possibly interfering with any medication they may be taking, these beverages increase dehydration rates in individuals. Water and juice are the best options. Lastly, during take-offs and landings, uncomfortable sinus and ear pressure may cause feelings of nausea. Chewing gum, plugging the ear canals or taking a decongestant can help.
Bonus Tip: Dress Comfortably. To make certain your parents are comfortable during travel, advise them to wear loose-fitting clothing in light layers with walking shoes. The hassle-free wardrobe will help keep the blood circulating during long waiting periods and times of inactivity. Also, it will be easy to sleep in and, depending on the weather, your parent can quickly warm up or cool down by adding or removing a layer of clothing.
Oh, the places you’ll go!
Here are five places that offer special discounts and accommodations for extended family travel making traveling “sandwiched” between your parents and children a vacation.
1. Costa Mesa’s Balamku Inn on the Beach in Mexico, www.balamku.com
2. Western River Expeditions in Utah, Idaho and Colorado, www.westernriver.com/trips/custom-adventures
3. Wildland Adventures Family Safari in Tanzania, www.wildland.com/trips/details/288/tanzania_itin.aspx
4. Canada’s Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, British Columbia, www.bigwhite.com
5. Bishop’s Lodge Resort and Spa at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico,www.bishopslodge.com