Summer Vacations can be the most relaxing time of the year, but for some of us caring for a loved one, it can be stressful and not so relaxing. Here are a few helpful tips from an article in the Huffington Post for caregivers traveling with their loved one over the summer. Enjoy!
Be realistic. For those with complex medical needs or highly limited mobility, renting a one-story lakefront cottage in driving distance might be more enjoyable than a whirlwind jaunt overseas or a trip cross-country. Lily originally wanted to go to Turkey, but she and her husband determined that their desired itinerary presented more architectural barriers than an equally exciting trip to Paris. (After gaining confidence in Paris, she is now looking into Turkey-bound tours that specialize in accommodating wheelchair travelers.)
- Plan ahead. Familiarize yourself with your destination before you go. Browse City Search, local tourism or chamber of commerce web sites to find health services, medical facilities, pharmacies and grocery stores. Keep that information with you while traveling.
- Tailor travel to your needs. Check with your airline or hotel ahead of time about special requests, such as a wheelchair, meals or special room requirements (including a walk-in shower). If they cannot accommodate, find a place that will. For long drives, consider using a larger vehicle to accommodate your space needs. For those heading to the beach, bear in mind that from California to New York City, beaches rent or lend free of charge special wheelchairs equipped to navigate sand and even float in the ocean.
- Attend to medication. If your or your family member takes medication, make sure you have enough on hand to get through the trip with a buffer in case of delays. Always carry a copy of the prescription. If you are flying, be sure that medication is in its original prescription container and check with the doctor about any special certificates for traveling. Also, be sure to review medication side effects, such as exposure to the sun or interaction with certain foods.
- Pack appropriately. Take along support stockings for extended road trips or flights and pack a back-up of medical supplies. Have snacks and plenty of water ready. Even if your destination offers such provisions, you’ll be better able to enjoy yourself if you have them on hand
- Maximize familiarity and routine. For a family member with dementia, a new environment will be confusing. Bring a few favorite objects from home and maintain your loved one’s routine as much as possible.
- Plan caretaking shifts. You might be the primary caregiver at home, but remind your family that this is your vacation, too. Set a schedule so that everyone who’s old enough has a few hours to be responsible for caretaking. Check for nearby adult daycare centers, as well
- Line up the help you need. If your loved one needs assistance with personal care or has a condition that requires skilled nursing, consider bringing the home health aide or nurse along on the trip. Ask your agency about travel companion service. You could also contact a home health care agency to arrange for services at your destination, although continuity of care can make a big difference in your loved one’s health and well-being.
- Pace yourself. When traveling with elderly relatives or those with medical needs, build in enough extra time for frequent breaks and slow steps. Avoid rushing — this is vacation! Keep in mind that an elderly or ill loved one tires more easily than the rest of the family, so include plenty of downtime in your day. Use the time to share family stories across generations.