Making travel arrangements for an elderly relative during the holiday season can be a daunting task for caregivers and family members. There are a variety of factors to consider, such as medical needs, travel insurance, medications, safety, and handicap accessibility. Depending on the individual's condition, it may be necessary for the caregiver or a family member to accompany them on the trip. If they will be traveling alone it's imperative to adequately prepare them for the experience. Planning and outlining an itinerary can reduce stress and allow your loved one to have a safe and enjoyable holiday excursion.
Here are some things to consider before making travel arrangements for your elderly relative.
- Determine if they are Fit for Travel
Caregivers or family members should schedule a complete medical check-up for their loved one prior to departure. They should also discuss ways to manage medications in different time zones, ask about prolonged sitting in a car or on a plane, as it carries a risk of blood clots, and obtain a signed letter from the doctor if the relative will be carrying large quantities of medication. Also, obtain a copy in case your loved one loses his or her medication.
Elderly travelers should receive flu and pneumonia vaccines, as well as additional vaccinations if visiting a country with infectious diseases. Elderly travelers should also visit any specialists they see regularly and fill all prescriptions before leaving home.
- Ensure Medical Needs Can be Met
According to the U.S. Department of State, Medicare will only cover medical expenses in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in emergencies. If traveling abroad, elderly relatives will need travel health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. Even if they're traveling domestically, it's still worthwhile to purchase a travel plan. Medicare can provide a list of all countries that have reciprocal health care agreements. This means that emergency care will be provided if necessary. Regardless of the destination, do your research and provide your relative a list of medical facilities in the area.
- Plan the Details
Preparing an elderly relative for travel requires planning ahead. Consider the following:
- Talk with a travel agent and make sure there are accommodations to suit the individual's needs. Call the airline, train, or bus line to request special services at each departure, connection, and arrival location. Ask that the relative be seated in a section reserved for disabled individuals. If necessary, reserve a free wheelchair. When the relative is traveling solo, ask that they be assisted at the counter and onto the plane. For helpful information on accessibility, visit TravelinWheels.
- To fit a budget, make hotel reservations in advance. Find low-cost lodging that features handicap access. Inform your relative about the details of their stay and provide them with a written itinerary.
- Write out a medication schedule.
- Provide a list of emergency contacts.
- Pack Smart
Help elderly relatives pack to ensure they have all of the essentials, including:
- Copies of passports, Medicare cards, tickets, itinerary, boarding passes, and prescriptions.
- A minimal amount of luggage. A small suitcase with wheels and a carry-on are perfect. If possible, avoid checking bags when traveling by plane. This will make arrival easier on the elderly individual.
- Store medications in a clear bag along with a doctor's documentation. Place the medication in their carry-on. Include enough medication for the duration of the trip.
- Include a first-aid kit, snacks, books, a money belt, and other items for the trip in the carry-on bag.
Preparing in advance and discussing the details with elderly loved ones can make traveling during the holidays run smoothly. After confirming that they're healthy enough for travel, make arrangements and reserve services to ensure the trip will be comfortable and enjoyable. Attention to detail is the key to safe travels.
If someone you love needs assistance at home, contact your local Maxim Healthcare Services office to learn more about how we can help with activities of daily living and in-home nursing needs.
This information is not meant as a substitute for professional, medical, or nutritional advice and consultation. When differences exist between the information here and information given to you by your healthcare provider(s), you should follow the advice of your healthcare provider(s). Any additional information or clarification needed should be sought from the Physician, Practitioner, Speech Pathologist, or Nutritionist who is familiar with the individual’s health and medical conditions.