The holiday season involves a lot of travel for many people so they can celebrate with family and friends. Travel can be physically and emotionally stressful for senior citizens, as well as for those traveling with them. But with some planning and thoughtfulness beforehand, you can help your loved one travel safely, comfortably and without incident.
Consult a Physician
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that your loved one visit a physician four to six weeks before the trip. Make sure the physician understands what will be involved in the travels, including the mode of transportation, duration of trip and destination.
A physician can ensure that your loved one is healthy enough for travel, that she has an ample supply of his or her prescription medications to last through the trip and that vaccinations are up-to-date. The physician also can make you aware of any limitations or special needs your loved one may have while traveling.
Pack for the Worst-Case Scenario
Keep all of your loved one’s prescription medications with you at all times. It may be tempting to bring only the pills needed for the duration of the flight in a carry-on and store the rest in a checked bag, but keep in mind that delays because of weather or scheduling issues are common in winter. The Transportation Security Administration does not apply the 3-1-1 rule to prescription medications.
Dress for Comfort
Loose clothing is best for seniors when traveling. It is often more comfortable, and it also helps ensure optimal circulation. People with poor circulation are at risk for blood clots when sitting for long periods, like on a plane. If your loved one has poor circulation, ask the doctor if he or she should wear compression stockings while traveling.
If you’re on a long flight, encourage your loved one to get up and walk the aisle every few hours. This will improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. It also will reduce problems with muscles and joints.
Consider Travel Health Insurance
Many health plans, including Medicare, do not pay for health services received outside the United States. Seniors are at higher risk for health complications while traveling, and are less likely to be able to afford the costly bills. Make sure you understand what your loved one’s health insurance does and does not cover, and if you are traveling outside the country, consider getting travel health insurance.
Use Airline Resources
When purchasing tickets for the trip, make sure it is clear that you will need assistance and a wheelchair for your loved one. Even if he or she doesn’t usually use a wheelchair, your loved one may become more tired than usual while traveling or may have trouble walking long distances, such as between airline terminals. Inquire about what kinds of restrooms are on the plane, and be mindful of any special needs your loved one has — will he or she be more comfortable in an aisle seat? Many airlines offer special rates for senior fliers, so ask about these discounts before making a purchase.
Traveling with your aging loved one does not need to be strenuous or difficult. With appropriate planning and consideration for your loved one’s needs, you all can reach your destination safely and without incident.
When planning a trip, include your loved one in the planning from the beginning so he or she can communicate his or her needs and feels included. If you feel your loved one may need more assistance than you will be able to provide, consider hiring a caregiver to travel with you. Many in-home care companies, such as Right at Home of Santa Barbara, offer travel care services.