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I have been reading about the nightmares that can happen when very frail seniors travel by air. What would be better alternatives if I were to bring my 87-year-old mother with Stage 1 Parkinson's from California to Arkansas if my stepfather passes before she does? There is a lovely ALF in Hot Springs where I could visit her daily. Mom is of sound mind, walks with a cane and uses Depends.


I read the article on this site about hiring a private ambulance ("ambulette") but the cost would be prohibitive. Car travel would take days with many bathroom and stretching stops and overnight accommodations. Has anyone traveled with a senior on Amtrak? Suggestions are welcome.

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If you think traveling by airplane is best, try to book your flights out of smaller regional airports. The planes will be smaller but the lines are shorter—As in the TSA security lines and the lines to get on the airplane. On our trip last month, we lucked out because our small regional airport which is a 15 minute drive, started offering direct flights to our destination so we only had to deal with major airports on our trip back. We arrived an hour before our flight and by the time we printed our boarding passes, checked our bags and found the gate, we only had about 15-20 minutes to wait until boarding. It was great! On our way home we flew out of a major international airport and it was excrutiating. Before all the terminal changes and delays, we were held up in the security line because my husband left a bottle of water in his backpack! So we had to wait while they went through his bag (and 5 others in front of him!). That took about 15 minutes. From then on, we had to get on a monorail (standing only) 3 times because the gate & terminal kept changing. So.....I seriously recommend trying to at least fly out of a regional airport. Flights are often more expensive but it is worth IMO. Good luck!
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Reply to worriedinCali
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Wow-. yes, rent an RV.

On a recent trip cross country to see my daughter, an elderly gent sitting a row in front of me had a 'blowout'. It was BEYOND humiliating for him, his companion, the flight attendants. As we were more than half way to our destination--the didn't opt to return to home base and just worked around it.

The smell was beyond horrible--planes don't smell all that great anyhow--and for those of us sitting near this gent--I have a strong nose and smell everything.

The flight attendants were wonderful--luckily the 'blowout' was contained and they did take him to first class bathroom and eventually he was returned to his seat wearing a pair of huge sweatpants and probably every single depends, pad and absorbent item they could find.

His companion (probably his son) was beyond--beyond mortified--but honestly, it was better he had the accident in his pants than in that teensy bathroom---THAT would have required and emergency stop for sure.

No amount of "free snacks' will make up for that redolent flight.

The RV would take longer, but discomfit fewer people.

At some point, flying although faster--you gotta weigh your options---300 people were pretty ticked off--not our faults, of course, but more than an hour of that flight was just HORRIBLE. And now I find out the captain could have dropped the 'oxygen bags for us' but felt it would upset the passengers.

Please do not even ATTEMPT a flight. When I have dropped $1000 to fly in (relative) comfort, I do NOT need a fecal blowout and no other place in the plane to sit....think of others....please.
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DePopa Jul 26, 2019
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I like Worrieds idea. Rent an RV. It doesn't have to be a large one. You would have everything you need for the trip.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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I wish I could find the post I read the plane nightmares on. What comes immediately to mind are security lines, plane delays, gate changes, and the plane's bathroom being too tiny to assist Mom if necessary.

Considering that no method of transport is going to be comfortable for Mom, I now see that the relative quickness of travel is probably worth whatever effort it takes at the airports to get Mom from California to Arkansas. At least it will all be over in one day as opposed to multiple days of road travel. And if there were a medical emergency, I'd rather be with her on a plane flying into a city instead of driving down a desert road in the middle of nowhere.

I was just online and can't find any direct flights from Los Angeles to Little Rock but did find one plane change and first-class seats. OK. I've convinced myself to fly.

Of course, all this could be for naught if Mom is incapacitated by the time her husband passes away. Too sad to think about until, and if, that time comes.

Thanks for all for your input.
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There are travel companions that can be hired to travel with people who are disabled. if you have an SUV where the back seat can go flat, she could be laying down or you can rent a cargo van and put a foam mattress there. Yes, lots of stops.
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worriedinCali Jul 25, 2019
That would be both dangerous and illegal though, since she wouldn’t be properly restrained by a seatbelt.
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Why not take an RV? You can rent small RVs. Once you are out of California, gas is at least $1.50 a gallon cheaper. You wouldn’t have to stop at hotels along the way, you could pull in to a rest area to sleep for a few hours. A direct flight from California to Arkansas is 4+ hours. She may not be able to handle being confined that long. If she will need assistance getting to the bathroom, keep in mind there isn’t a lot of room to move around the cabin and no one will be able to go inside the bathroom to help either. If you take an RV, you can plan out your road trip and stop at different places along the way.

With amtrak, you would be changing trains multiple times and having long (12 hour) “layovers” at the train station while waiting for the next train. California to Arkansas by train is not going to be easy. Have you looked at the times the train leaves CA? 12:45am out of it city.....with a 12 hour stop in Los Angeles.
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To add to Geaton 777. I plan to do the same since mom still uses a walker but is incontinent....non stop, timed with bathroom break prior to boarding, disposable pad on the seat just in case, clothing change for insurance, plus only first class. As long as she is not bedbound.
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Reply to MACinCT
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I've flown with my 2 aunties from MN to FL and back while they were in their 90's, and one with dementia. I made sure we had a non-stop flight and they had on Depends. Yes, the non-stop flight was more money, but less stressful for them and me. Not sure what flying nightmares you have read about...Amtrak can take just as long as a car ride and not sure it goes where you need it to. The sooner you get her to the destination, the better for all. Also, she should be paying for the cost of the travel, not you. Good luck!
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