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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.