In two weeks, Tom and his wife will be hitting the road to spend a week in their favorite mountain cabin, located a couple of hours away from home. While Tom is excited to get a break from his everyday routine, he still has not decided whether or not his widowed, 82-year-old father―who has been living with Tom and his wife since a major fall last year―will be coming along. After initially mentioning the idea to his dad, Tom felt his father’s hesitancy to take the trip with them. As a caregiver and son he worries about leaving his dad home alone for such a long period of time. But he also feels uneasy about providing for his father’s needs away from home, and unsure about what kinds of situations he might have to plan for in his absence.
Tom’s concerns pose real questions for family caregivers traveling, or planning to travel, with a loved one who is ill or has a disability. Whether you’ve planned a trip across town, or to the other side of the country, caregiving in different situations, around unfamiliar people and in distant locations can pose many new challenges to the already difficult task of caregiving.
Consider Your Care Recipient’s Condition & Special Needs When Planning Travel
Prior to making travel plans, it will likely be helpful to consider how long, and via what methods of transportation your loved one will be most comfortable and capable. Think about meals on the road, medication schedules and breaks in travel to help reduce stress , while en route to your destination. Consider consulting with their doctor or a social worker for advice and guidance on safety concerns . Unfortunately, these considerations may also lead to the conclusion that traveling with your care recipient is not feasible at this time, due either to their mental or physical condition, or your level of comfort with caregiving away from home.
The inability for a loved one to travel may mean that many caregivers reluctantly stay home, abandoning their travel plans. . Common reasons for not travelling are not wanting to make mom or dad feel left out when heading to a family event, or lacking the support to hand off caregiving duties to another family member for a period of time while away.
One option for caregivers may be to hire a home care agency, which can provide daily check-ins, or around-the-clock care for a senior when their primary caregiver is away. However, the cost may not be feasible, or the care recipient and caregiver may be uncomfortable with an outside care provider.
Regardless of the final decision for travel plans, the best first step in planning is to evaluate travel capabilities, as well as any concerns or fears you have about travel scenarios; and finalizing plans from there.
Preparing for Travel
If caregiving on the road is in your future, preparing for the trip as best as possible can help lay the framework for a smoother, more enjoyable journey. Mothers of infants often travel with a bag on their hip that is full of all the necessities: diapers, ointment, bottles, teething drops; everything that their child might need to stay content. Family caregivers may find that preparing for travel by packing essential items so that they are easily accessible will help ease their mind.
Consider putting together a bag or backpack with medications organized into a secure pill box, snacks that meet any special dietary restrictions, clothing for layering such as a sweater and entertainment like crossword puzzles or recorded booksto help pass the time. Many caregivers also worry about becoming separated from their care recipient in the hustle and bustle of travel. By equipping your care recipient with identification and your emergency contact information, either in a wallet or purse, or a medical alert bracelet, you can help expedite being reunited in case of accidental separation during your travels. A list of medications, emergency contact numbers for care providers and a note on the location of the nearest hospital can also provide peace of mind in case of an unexpected medical need.
Travel insurance is another option that may provide caregivers with peace of mind. Available via travel agents, operators and independent companies, travel insurance policies can be purchased to cover non-refundable costs for trip cancellation, delay or changes in case of a change in care recipient condition that causes caregivers to have to rearrange travel plans.
Traveling and vacation can provide much needed stress relief for family caregivers who are devoting their time to the well-being of another. However, with the right preparations for your individual scenario, travel with a care recipient can also provide a break from daily routines that isn’t a dreaded experience.
Look for a blog soon on the special needs for traveling with a loved one living with dementia.
Have you had experience traveling with a care recipient? If so, leave a comment and share your tips for successful, low-stress travel.