Smitty Asked February 2013

When is it not a good idea to take an elderly parent with you on vacation?

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We plan to take a road trip next week for a week. My 81 yo mother is on oxygen 24/7 and is somewhat unsteady and uses a walker. We will take a transfer chair in case she needs it. She needs assistance with many things. I will be giving her a bath. We both need to get away but I'm starting to wonder if it's a good idea because by the end of the trip I'll be exhausted and ready for a vacation. Lately she's really been getting on my nerves and i don't want to take out my frustrations on her. Any feedback would be great.

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Whitney Feb 2013
Possibly you can take your mother on a day trip after your vacation, or perhaps even a couple hours sitting in a local park would be nice. I don't know where you live, but spring is not too far away in most parts of the country. This will give your mother something to look forward to. In addition, sometimes it is best to literally not say anything or react to folks that have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes people just like to complain and be heard, but if the other person reacts it just gives them more to feed on. I'm not saying to ignore her, but just possibly acknowledge her complaining by nodding your head in a pleasant way, or politely change the subject, such as asking her what she wants for lunch, etc.
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jeannegibbs Feb 2013
Smitty, it is very generous of you to take your mother on a road trip. If you can retain your sanity this kind of stimulation and change in environment can be excellent for her. What a gift you are giving her!

Traveling with someone with impairments is challenging. In the nine years he had dementia I took my husband on many trips -- cruises, Amtrak, the Grand Canyon, Glacier Park, nearby states, guided bus tours. (His neurologist highly approved of this and encouraged it.) I don't regret a single trip. But I also didn't consider any of them a vacation!

As long as you are clear about this is something you are doing for your mother then at least the risk of disappointment is reduced. I had the advantage of a cooperative and non-demanding traveler. But dementia adds its own challenge. Toileting was more an issue for us (he needed assistance, and we were always grateful for unisex bathrooms, but they are not always available) than it will be for you and your mother.

On our final cruise (5 months before he died) I did take our daughter along. It was a very difficult trip, with Hubby having increased mobility problems and declining cognition. I'm glad we had that one last trip, but I don't think I could have survived it without the cheerful help of Daughter.

If you can do this as a "servant" and as a gift to your mother, I think it can be a very rewarding and worthwhile experience. More power to you!

(And how smart you are to have already scheduled a vacation for yourself!)

By the way, I suggest taking lots of pictures of all aspects of the trip. Looking at them later can extend the pleasure of the trip for your mother. And without her demanding comments you can enjoy the trip in a new way!
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Smitty Feb 2013
Thanks Eddie. I totally agree with you. It really wouldn't be a vacation of any kind for me. We wouldn't take another person with us. That's why I'm dreading it so furiously! But I've already decided to vacation the week after we get home. She has no problem with that, thank God! She has another caregiver from an agency to be her servant while I'm away.

The word servant hit a nerve because she is very demanding and expects me to drop everything for her. When I get upset and react to her unrealistic expectations, she makes me the problem. Oh well, most of us can probably relate to that!

Smitty
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Eddie Feb 2013
The vacation would be a good idea if it's for her benefit only. In that case, you'd be her "servant." Which is pretty much what you're doing already. Same dog, different collar. ... Or same ___, different toilet.

Still, you might be able to enjoy yourself if there's others willing to share the caregiving responsibilities, including keeping grandma in high spirits.

Another option is to tell her you're taking her on a vacation, but that later on you'll be flying solo for about a week or two in order to recharge. She's definitely not going to be happy, but then again she just might understand the need to commune with oneself every now and then.
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