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I was initially against the idea, but am now all for it. We'll bring an aide for support, but I'd like some suggestions on the best way to go about such a trip. Ideally I"m thinking no more than 4 days, and that might be too much for them. Still I want to help them feel like they're not "stuck" in one place and that they'll be in the ALF until then end, without any other fun time outside. Trips to doctors and short local car rides just don't cut it.

Has anyone taken their elderly parents on a cruise?

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My thoughts are if your parents want to take a cruise they should! Every cruise lines website has a floor plan of the ship where you can choose handicap rooms and a room close to the elevator. There are now shore excursions (bus tours) for disabled or those with limited mobility. These can also be found on the cruise lines website. Find activities onboard they would enjoy that doesn't involve lots of walking. Movies, nightly shows, casino, lounge and just people watching. Most larger ships even have a handicap lift for the pool. If they will be visiting museums or large attractions ask in advance if they have wheelchairs for rent. My husband and I cruise yearly and there are always some passengers in wheelchairs or using walkers and they seem to be having a great time. If you are worried about health insurance outside the US there is temporary insurance available on-line.
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GardenArtist, Thank you for your kind words. Helping mom and dad to NOT feel like they're just counting the days left, and making sure they live well and happy (every day) is important to me. Tough to accomplish when I live such a long distance away, but I know it's possible.

With the support in AgingCare, this has all been much easier - and informative too.
Thanks for you support.

Thank you to everyone else too! Hugs to all.
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TigerDaughter, your plans seem to be well thought of, especially since you and one of the aids will accompany the family.

I especially like the idea of creating memories. Be sure to take a lot of photos and create a memory photo album - it'll be nice to review later, especially in the wintertime.

You've helped demonstrate that with a lot of suggestions and creativity and foresight on your part, elders with health issues can still take enjoyable vacations. That's a good lesson for me to remember.
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WOW, all your responses are just terrific. Mom has had some TIAs in the past but it pretty good, although tiny now. Dad's memory is good but sometimes complains that he can't remember something that they did a day past. That said, I'm in my 50s and can't remember everything either. :)

Poor dad is depressed just being cooped up in ALF and mom will go anywhere dad wants. He's always talking about wanting to plan another cruise and they used to cruise frequently and enjoy it. The last few they never left the ship and enjoyed just the same (their choice and they went on their own then). Have talked with our "lead aide" and she's all for this. The two of us will go with mom and dad and make it a memory they will cherish! So... we are going for it, with all the terrific planning and prep suggestions that everyone has mentioned here. It may take us a few months to coordinate my own work schedule, but we'll get there.

Thank you all so much for all your ideas and support! This is a fabulous service site.
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JeanneGibbs - I agree. If the obstacles can be overcome (special accommodations for users of walkers, etc.) they should go and enjoy themselves! My mother can't travel now, but it was great that she was able to go to Alaska when she was still able and I think she really enjoyed it. Safety isn't everything. If it were, my mother would not still be living alone in her own home.
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My Dad has a rollator, too, loves it... best thing since sliced bread for him. He's also mechanically inclined. He had my Mom try to use the rollator thinking maybe she would like it, but her arthritic hands couldn't master the braking system. Mom never learned to ride a bike with hand brakes so maybe there is a pattern here.

I also had the rollator go on a stroll by itself when taking it out of the trunk onto the driveway... just enough slope to get it rolling... I had to jump into action, which isn't easy at my age, to stop it before it got into the street :P
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GardenArtist - in my mother's case, I'm pretty sure it was a grip problem. I/we didn't know enough to teach her to keep hands on the brakes before taking that thing out. Or maybe her reflexes were too slow when she went to brake it.

Amazingly, she wasn't badly hurt falling on that hard floor. She banged her glasses into her face and got a little bruise around her eye. I fell on my face once walking my dog and got a broken nose, two black eyes, and cuts and bruises all over my face. Looked like I'd been the loser in a prize fight. Go figure!
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Carla, thanks for the warning; I've been thinking about this and think that probably my father hasn't fallen because his thumb is on the top of the handle and the rest of his hand is on the brake below, so he can always brake the rollator. He's also pretty good mechanically and likes to figure out how to handle things like that.

However, I have had the problem of it rolling away or falling when I'm trying to get it in the car. Seems it likes to escape and go on journeys of its own. So what I have to do now is brake it so the wheels are locked, hold it up with one hand while resting against the car door, and tie an old nylon stocking around the front and back wheels on one side to keep them from collapsing - something else it does. I also use Velcro and as soon as I find one of the bungee cords hiding somewhere in my trunk I'll use that.

Thanks for the warning - I'll have to warn Dad about that. Last thing he needs is yet another fall.

BTW, I hope your mother wasn't hurt during the 2 falls? A flat on the face fall could result in some really sore spots or broken bones.

I keep thinking about that and wonder if it was moving too fast for her? Or was it not adjusted properly to her height? I'm wondering also if she has trouble gripping it and it tends to move ahead on its own? At one time we used a type of gripper on the walker handlebars to make them easier to hold onto, as the rubber handles do tend to be smooth and not very "grippable".
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Tigerdaughter doesn't say her parents have dementia. She is already planning on bringing an aide, not counting on the cruise line.

There are risks in taking elderly people on a cruise. I'm inclined to say, mitigate the risks as best you can, plan carefully, and then go have fun. It would be "safer" to keep Mom and Dad quietly in their assisted living community, playing bingo and watching travel videos. But safety isn't the only consideration. If they are capable of a taking a cruise that would be a wonderful, meaningful source of memories for the rest of their lives, when maybe they really do need to stay home and play bingo.
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GardenArtist, I agree about the rollator. If we'd had one, my mother would have been able to sit on the seat while waiting to board and have solved the whole problem. As well as probably made it possible for us to do more on the ship. My mother was very reluctant to move from a cane to a walker for vanity reasons, and she needed one a lot sooner than she began using one.

One caution about the rollators, though - they can roll out from under the person and result in falls. My mother fell twice in under an hour using her rollator in a furniture store with a shiny polished floor. Flat on her face. But I was able to sit her on the seat and wheel her out of there like pushing a wheelchair after the second fall. (I know, why did I let it happen twice?) She can't use a rollator at all now - she tends to push it away from her and lose her balance. A regular walker solves that issue, but she's still pushing it and complains it's hard to push. She probably should really be in a wheelchair. Sigh....
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Pam, I wasn't aware of the notice rules or the rules about special staterooms for walkers and wheelchairs. My mother was only using a cane at the time so if these rules were in place they wouldn't have affected us. I didn't know about the Alzheimer's rule either. It seems you would have to present all this to the cruise company before you book and follow whatever their procedures are.

It's a good point about the health coverage, too. We didn't consider that, and luckily neither of us got sick when I went to Alaska with my Mom.
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Cruise Lines are now insisting on advance notice for passengers with disabilities. Walkers and wheelchairs need special staterooms. About 1/3 of the ports visited are not accessible and nearly zero excursions are accessible. Cruises will not accept Alzheimer's patients who may refuse to evacuate when ordered. They do not provide an aide, you hire your own and of course pay them 24/7 and pay for their passage.
You have no health insurance outside your network and no Medicare coverage outside the US. Plan carefully and be sure you get trip insurance.
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My mother is 95. She is a two-person transfer, with a lift, so travel is not an option now. Also, cognitively I don't think she'd enjoy it.

But your parents are mobile and you don't mention cognitive problems. Go for it!

I traveled with my husband, in his late seventies and eighties -- not terribly old, but with dementia, which sure alters things! For what turned out to be our final cruise, he wanted to stay within the US, because he was strongly wanting to donate his brain for research and he was afraid that might not be possible if he died abroad. (Yes, he had dementia, but he was very clear-minded about some things, and this was one of them.) We found a cruise around Lake Michigan! Terrific! This was a very small ship. It was so small that wheelchairs didn't work on the ship, but we could use one on all excursions.

Earlier we took two cruises to Alaska -- one on a "floating city" ship, and one with about 100 passengers. Each has its own advantages. The huge ships are likely to have medical staff aboard, and plenty of things to do right on the ship. It is a nice vacation even if you don't have the energy some days to go ashore. They are more apt to be handicap accessible. A small ship is less overwhelming and easier to get to know fellow-passengers.

A river cruise or a lake cruise in the US has an advantage of always being fairly close to a port in case of a various serious medical emergency.

Do consider how you to and from the departure point. Until the last cruise we always flew, and my husband was up to that. But the Lake Michigan trip we could go by car and allowed plenty of time for meal stops and breaks. That worked really well.

I am so glad your mom and dad will have an aide with them. Are you going, too? Have a great time!
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See if you can get what would be equivalent to a floor plan for the ship, identify all the routes you'd need (to dinner, theatre, etc.) and plot the distances, then plan to either take or find out if the cruise company has wheelchairs on board, to reserve, not just check out when your folks are on the ship as you want to ensure they're still there.

Practice dry runs to determine if you need anything besides what you plan to take...i.e., Carla mentions some specifically difficult areas... if you plan out everything from getting out of a car to boarding to getting around the ship to exiting it, and address potential issues now, it won't be a surprise or shock if it does happen.

One thing to consider instead of a walker is a rollator. We got one for Dad and he uses it more than his walker now. It offers more stability as well as a seat with a basket underneath for bringing books, bottled water, etc. Dad takes his down to the lake, sits on it and watches the swimmers and boaters for awhile, then wheels it home.

It's sturdier than a walker and much easier to push. He can walk faster than me with his rollator.

Think of all possibilities, plan alternates and how your parents and you could address them beforehand so there are no unpleasant surprises. Eg., they might want to go out for breakfast but take lunch in since it will be hotter and they might benefit from a rest.

And of course take backup medication.

Senior centers and some localities plan trips, sometimes day trips. I don't know if they plan cruises, but if they did, your parents would be in the company of others their age (although that can sometimes be a disadvantage if people want to talk about their illnesses) so the sponsor would have to be aware of mobility limitations.
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I just googled "cruises for wheelchair bound people" and found a website called Cruise Critic that has lots of good tips. I'd hire a travel agent (one of their suggestions) and make sure they understand your parents' limitations. Another idea is a river cruise, which is typically on a 1-story boat that would be easier to get on and off. My mom and dad did Mississippi River cruises (on paddleboats) that they loved. I'm not sure how old they were, but they really enjoyed them. Although those weren't 1-story ships.
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freqflyer makes a good point. I took my mother on a cruise when she was using a cane (before she needed a walker) and we really should have brought a wheelchair. While waiting in line to get checked in, my mother almost passed out from standing so long (this took at least an hour if I recall correctly). I finally found some agent of the cruise company to give her a place to sit down and check her in without having to stand in line.

On the ship, it was a very long trek to the dining room and most of the other activities on the ship. This limited us somewhat - a few times we had meals brought to our room because the walk was too much for her. I don't think we did any other activities either. They gave us a free upgrade so we had an outside cabin with a balcony, so Mom mostly just stayed there and watched the world go by. She also had a lot of trouble boarding the ship when we got off for day trips. The ship had a long ramp up as well as the stairs, but even that was very hard on her. Unless it's a small ship as freqflyer says, I'd suggest two aides - one for each person. And both bring wheelchairs as well as walkers.
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I found this article about cruises and senior citizens. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/cruise-tips-for-elderly-150746.htm

Also, go to the SEARCH SITE in the upper right corner and type in "cruise", and also try "vacations" in the mean time until others here on the forum can give you their experiences on cruises.

It sounds like a great idea if the cruise boat isn't one of those floating cities, as getting from one side of the boat to the other might be very tiresome for your parents, where a small ship like seen on the old TV show "Love Boat", would be a better fit.
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