The holidays are here. In addition to all of the great food, family, friends and fun, there are also nuisances that can only grow more difficult without preparation. Travel is necessary, yet can be troublesome during the holidays. Some drive only a few minutes to a family gathering, while many drive or fly for hours and even leave the country to spend these precious times with loved ones.
Travel can be one of the greatest gifts a child or caregiver can give to a senior, but there are important things to remember that can help make things go smoothly. Here are some great considerations for traveling with a senior or to share with elderly loved ones who may be traveling this holiday season:
Get doctor clearance
First and foremost, you must know if a senior is even able to go on a long trip. According to “Caregiving Tips for Traveling with Seniors” on agingcare.com, you must consider if the destination is appropriate for your parent’s abilities or limitations, and do they need any special vaccinations? Another huge key is getting all prescriptions filled before leaving.
Research and plan ahead
According to another article on agingcare.com, titled “Ten Traveling Tips for the Elderly,” reserving and confirming must be accomplished as soon as possible. For air and land travel, go for the most direct and shortest travel times. If there is a choice of three airlines, enroll in the no-cost frequent flier program for each. This should give the best possible access to low fares, airport and flight benefits and special service requests.
According to AARP, you must call bus, train and airline companies ahead of time to discuss special accommodations. Find out if a wheelchair or other wheeled equipment can be carried on the flight. If you’re flying without a wheelchair but need one to get around in the airport, you can ask for an airport wheelchair and an attendant to navigate you easily from place to place. It’s best to be proactive and discuss your needs when you make reservations. In many airports, however, you can simply ask for a wheelchair when you arrive for departure.
Keep it simple, and don’t do too much. Be realistic about the amount of activity you or an aging loved one can do. If limited mobility is a concern, renting a one-story lakefront cottage within driving distance will be more enjoyable than an around-the-world marathon trip. Allow plenty of time for rest and don’t over-schedule.
Request and reserve special services
Make sure to ask for seats in rows designated for disabled travelers, and request free wheelchair service at every airport origination, connection and arrival location. If there’s meal service, make sure to adhere to dietary needs. If traveling alone, ensure your loved one will have human assistance from the counter, through security, to the gate and then aboard the plane.
Stick with routine
Knowing what to expect throughout the day is crucial for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It takes away stress, anxiety and fear. Keep meal times, bed times and medication schedules as close to the home routine as possible. Also, bring a few favorite objects to create a sense of home.
Think about security
Thieves are everywhere, especially in high-traffic areas like airports and travel centers. Instead of a purse, a loved one can carry a money belt worn under a blouse. Instead of a wallet in the back pants pocket, you can wear a wallet tucked into the pants and secured by a cord to a belt. Have a loved one always keep his or her carry-on between the feet when standing, or with the shoulder strap looped around the leg of a chair when seated.
These are some things to consider as the busy travel season kicks off, not only for seniors in your life but for anybody who needs to travel.