6 Strategies for Vacationing with an Older Adult


When you're a caregiver you might think that taking a vacation with an elderly parent or relative who requires special care is out of the question. This is an especially difficult dilemma for members of the sandwich generation who want to spend quality time with their own children while they're off from school. But with a little planning and the flexibility to scale a trip to meet everyone's needs, caregivers can still have a memorable time with their family.

Here are some tips from nurses and home health aides at Partners in Care to help make traveling together easy, safe and enjoyable:

  1. Talk about what's realistic: Traveling can cause an added layer of stress and a list of "can'ts" for those who have limited mobility, chronic illness, depression or other health concerns. To ease your loved one's anxiety, acknowledge any concerns he or she may have, addressing them as specifically as possible.
  2. Tailor travel to your loved one's needs: Will you need wheelchair access? If renting a car, do you have enough space for all of your baggage and medical equipment? Check with your airline and hotel in advance regarding any special requirements, such as having a first-floor hotel room or arranging for specialty meals.
  3. Bring all prescriptions: Always bring extra medications and a copy of your loved one's prescriptions when traveling. If flying, ensure each prescription is in its original container and double-check with your loved one's doctor's office to see if you will need any special documentation for traveling with certain medications.
  4. Maximize familiarity and routine: If your loved one has dementia or other memory loss issues, do your best to make the hotel room feel like home. Bring a few of his or her favorite objects, such as photographs, an alarm clock or books. These items will make your loved one feel more at ease with his or her new surroundings.
  5. Plan caretaking shifts: Remember, it's your vacation, too. Make sure to set a schedule for your family members to help out with caregiving. You might also research local caregiver respite programs or senior daycare centers wherever you're going.
  6. Plan for emergencies: Bring a checklist in case an emergency strikes, including a complete prescriptions list, physician contact information, pertinent medical history and documents, and any contact info for family and friends.

Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., is assistant director of clinical services at Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). In this role, she coordinates patient care and manages a multi-disciplinary team of field nursing and home health care professionals in the clinical area of a VNSNY’s private care division.

Partners in Care

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My husband is in the stage of Alzheimers where he can make a mess with number 2. Sometimes he can leave the bathroom a huge mess after a bowel movement. Then I have to go in and clean up. I couldn't possible take him on a trip because I can't trust him in a bathroom by himself! What can I do to have a vacation? I hate to leave him because he still knows who I am and wants me there. He feels alone if I leave him for any time at all. He will "Look" for me and that is what will spell disaster if I leave him in respite care. He will wander off in search for me!
My mother has #2 accidents, too. We have taken her to the beach with us, but I make sure that she and my husband and I share a bathroom (first floor). This way a messed-up bathroom can be cleaned by me, and my husband understands. Several relatives go with us (son, husband's brother). We get a beach-front house off-season so each couple ends up paying about $600 for a week. Even if you can't venture too far away, you can take turns caregiving while others walk on the beach. She enjoys sitting on the deck and eating most meals with us. If you don't live near a beach, try the mountains or a hotel (with kitchen) with a view. The important thing is to involve a few others, if possible. Believe me, a little freedom goes a long way and a change of venue will benefit you enormously
I am my moms primary caregiver & want to take my mom to Italy...My Bro is poa & will not give me her passport. Travelling is a great way to provide quality care for those with late stage dementia. Our days are long with little activity done independently.
I have a free trip so money is not the issue. How can I convince my brother to let her go with us. She deserves to travel like anyone else. We take her on small trips & although I must take time, she does really well.