Caregiver and Senior Travel Tips

My mother and father have always been big travelers, and they still want to travel. Should they limit this activity at their advanced age (84 and 79)?
Sammy in South Carolina, 59

Aging shouldn’t keep your elder from traveling and interacting with the world at large if they still have the capacity and drive to do so. Travel can still be an exciting experience for them, but it takes a great deal of organization. Complications you would never think of can arise. Something as simple as jet lag could pose a major problem since it takes many elderly twice as long to recover from it. So plan ahead. After discussing every possible detail together, make a list that includes all of the supplies, medications, and other items that are needed for the trip. Buy what’s needed before the trip, since shopping at their destination could prove difficult.

Always check for senior and/or handicapped discounts, and consider traveling midweek or off-season. State bureaus of tourism, state parks, historical societies, and local chambers of commerce are all excellent sources of travel information, but you must be very specific regarding any special needs your elder might have. The more specific you are, the more accurate the information you will receive. A Bed and Breakfast will often have a special room that can accommodate a special needs person, including wheelchair-accessible shower stalls.

It’s also quite common for your elder to be invited to family gatherings or special events. This can be both a joy and a challenge, especially if the event is at a distance. One of my clients was invited to a wedding, a surprise birthday for her sister three months later, and a gathering of ""the clan"" for a family reunion six months after that. These invitations produced a lot of anxiety for her, and meant a lot of detail work on my part for her to enjoy a stress free time with family and friends. After discussing every possible detail together, we made lists for each event - all supplies, medications, other items that would be needed, what had to be purchased such as new outfits or gifts. Gifts were always sent in advance, even if they were checks. I checked out the transportation and the hotels, and her aide went with her to all three events. On one trip she took a plane, and she took the train to the others. Everything went as planned, and I asked family members at each event to supply us with pictures. When the pictures arrived they were enjoyed, then put into a scrap book, which gave her another chance to tell and show all her friends each of the various events.

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