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My mother, 87, has mild vascular dementia and my 91 year old father, who is still going strong, is her primary caretaker. We live in Texas and I'm planning to drive them to their place in Mississippi this summer for a 2 week stay. This is something they used to do on their own several times a year for month long stays. This past year my mother hasn't been able to pack and stressed so much that my father opted out of taking the trip. He is getting caretaker burnout BAD and needs to get away, so this trip is more for him than her. My hopes are to give my dad a much needed break so he can enjoy his time fishing and piddling around their place without having to worry about mother. This place is his love in life. However, I don't want to put any undo stress on my mother. I feel confident that she'll be fine once we're there because she loves this place, too. It's where they both grew up so there are a lot of memories we can share. I'm looking for tips to help her cope with getting packed, travel tips and dealing with new routines while we're there. Any suggestions or experiences will be appreciated!

The key will be, if you insist on doing this, to not be stressed yourself, and relieve your mother of all stresses...so plan on YOU doing the packing etc, and keep as normal a routine as possible for her daily activities when you are there. Nothing is predictable. Before we realized what was going on with my mom, she and dad took a trip to see my sister. We had no idea that while mom had packed, she had not packed essentials or enough for the weeks stay. She was snarky as ever at the airport checkin saying that I couldn't wait to be rid of them (LOL). Once there the environmental change rattled her. She was also distressed about how LONG they were going to stay and appeased when my sister latched on to saying she was going home "the day after tomorrow"; places with lots of noise/people were overwhelming. But you won't know unless you try. Worst case, you could always rest up once you arrive and drive her back home and let your dad vacation on his own.
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Reply to gdaughter
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Since you're taking them on the road trip, you need to go help her pack. Give them a date, like two days before take off, that you will be at their house to do all of the packing. To keep her busy and stave off the fretting, tell her to write down things she'd like to take as she thinks of them. Then when you get there to start the packing, use her list whether complete or not. Plus, your father can reinforce it by saying 'put it on the list so we don't forget'. A couple days in advance will also give you the opportunity to make your own list of things you cannot pack until travel day (like meds, bathroom items, etc)
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Reply to my2cents
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Try to help your mom pack if you're able & take the trip.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Hi MamaChar. Mom and I are also taking a road trip in 4 weeks to my nieces wedding. 12 hours but we are stopping half way and staying in a hotel. I also plan to stop often so Mom can change positions and stretch. I’m bringing a small cooler for drinks and fruit and sandwiches. Pillow and soft blanket so Mom can nap. One of those neck pillows too. Favorite cd’s for the ride. Two folding chairs in case seating when we stop to stretch is too far away. Walker and wheelchair, ice packs for my back which will be crying after a few hours of driving. Books and magazines. Have a wonderful trip with your parents. Sounds like it will be a fantastic time for all of you.
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gdaughter 16 hours ago
TWELVE hours!? I can't do more than 5 and that's pushing it! But I wish I could sleep all the way there!
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I second the concern about her getting disoriented and trying to get out of a moving car. Remember, just because she hasn't done it, doesn't mean she won't. My Hubby has Alzheimer's. No one outside the family can see the problems because they don't live here.

We were going to take our RV to a campground near the house for a one night "shakedown" camp. Just before we left he told me we were out of Propane, no problem, I will just stop and get some. Then he wanted to wash the RV. We have gone to the truck wash many times, BUT, out of nowhere, suddenly the three things were too much for him. So, I lost my $50.00 fee because he was too stressed. So, this next week, we will go for Propane, and come home. Then some other day, I will get it washed. etc.

He still grocery shops and cooks. I drive him to the same store, and I park as close to the same spot I can. Everything is OK. Today we went to Costco and he was so anxious, he couldn't use his debit card and I so I had to use mine.

So, please listen to us and do your best to keep your mother safe. There is always a first time for everything.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
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Maybe take a puzzle or find-a-word or something to keep her occupied during the drive. Boredom may be your biggest problem. I’m not sure about making lots of stops; what are you going to do if she throws a fit and refuses to get back in the car? If she’s not to that point yet, then yes, schedule lots of stops so she can get out and stretch. I would avoid eating in a restaurant - I would get food to go and eat in the car, less stimulation for her. Also bring snacks: frozen grapes are good, as are trail mix, nuts & hard candy. I think it’s a wonderful thing you’re doing for your parents. I hope you all enjoy the time away.
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Reply to BeckyT
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You help mom pack & maybe dad too - go to the dollar store & buy several packing cubes - put a day's clothes in each ... underwear, sox, slax & top - don't forget to search for things that you can use like cloth shopping bags, old purses, etc that you can also use as packing cubes - put 1 week's cubes in a suitcase with a sweater or 2 & P.J.s - then all dirty things go in there & go on to second suitcase - add in toiletries & shoes & you are done

Tell your mom [only if she asks] that you heard of this method & want to try it on them - FYI I heard/saw it recently on a video for packing for kids - hope this helps [PS I am a former flight attendant & have packed more suitcases than I can count]

Ask you mom's dr or druggist if giving her a travel sickness med that makes her sleepy would be good - but try it at least a week before as 0.5% of people get overstimulated on these meds & you don't know with her new brain structure how exactly she will react to it now even if she has taken it before
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Reply to moecam
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How does your mom do on short trips? My mother used to enjoy road trips but since her dementia, getting her to a dr 1/2 an hr away is 1/2 an hour of moaning and complaining lol. She hates riding in a car unless she’s able to see new sights, on the freeway is awful. It sounds great for your dad, I’m just concerned if your mom will bounce back or make the trip a nightmare. I’d definitely consult her dr beforehand.
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Reply to Jannner
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Where in TX and where to in Mississippi? Reason for questions? You'll be going through Louisiana which could be a challenge depending on your route.
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Reply to shad250
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I have no experience with this kind of travel, and your Mom's vascular dementia doesn't sound overwhelming yet. It is terribly unpredictable what can happen though, especially with breaks in routine. When my husband (87) and I talk about travel, he and his PCP are totally open to his using Valium (2.5 mg) and flying first-class to lessen the stress of wear-and-tear on the highways. It sounds possible your Mom may have some great long-term memories? My Dad, 98, can still name the people who helped build his home, but no longer remembers he's at his home.

But I also agree with the posters here that if your Mom and Dad are able/willing, a respite for you and your father may be best. On the other hand, if they would miss each other so severely that it's pointless to separate them, you do seem to be open and willing to roll with punches. Maybe ensure that reverse planning is as easy as possible in case things don't work out. Maybe find a geriatric specialist in Mississipi who you can consult with locally should there be a huge problem?

I just love your attitude of gifting, the biggest gift of all from your parents. Your sharing that is an inspiration and probably lightened many a load today. May we always be able to see the gifts.
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Reply to 50sChild
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Your mother can't pack. Use one or two days of your planned trip to do it for her.

Please note the car safety advice - learned the hard way by people who know what they're talking about.

My own tip is to watch out for car sickness, even if your mother has always been a good traveller. Something goes awry in the inner ear, apparently. Keep airline-type bags, bottled water, and mints in the car in case you can't pull over in time.

And don't leave her to use rest rooms on her own. Use the disabled facilities and accompany her all the way, just turning away discreetly to give her her privacy.

The journey is *going* to take far longer than it used to. This will not be nearly so stressful if you just accept in advance that it's so.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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My gut reaction when I read your question/post is...leave Mom home and let Dad have a week to himself. But as I was reading your response to other suggestions I have rethought my comment.
You seem to have a FABULOUS family support system and I think that is what will help you out on this trip.
I think your trip might take a bit longer though. A break after 8 hours...I think that is a bit long. You should plan on stopping every 2 to 3 hours. (If she is incontinent you should be checking her or if she is not incontinent she needs a bathroom break) Pack supplies in a backpack, extra briefs or underwear, plastic bags, gloves, wipes and a change of pants or a skirt (easier to get on and off).

Enjoy your vacation.
Happy retirement and your parents are lucky...and you are lucky to have a supportive family not every one does.!
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Reply to Grandma1954
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I can only tell you that my Luz tried to get out of the car when I was doing 35 mph.
If you decide to take the trip I would suggest that you stay in the right hand lane just in case she becomes totally disorientated and confused so you can pull over quickly.
Best of luck to you.
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Reply to OldSailor
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Thank each of you for taking the time to talk about this. You obviously have experience in areas where I have yet to tread. I will definitely take your words and suggestions into consideration, and I appreciate your concern and support.

This is my heart: Our family has been blessed with amazing parents and their health is excellent, considering their ages. I also have wonderful support from my siblings, husband, family and friends. As we age, life becomes very fragile and precious and way too short. All my life I've looked for ways to repay my mom and dad for all they have done for me and mine. I watched them take care of my mother's parents as they aged (my grandfather also had dementia) and now I feel blessed to be able to follow in their footsteps. I am not deluded that we have a challenging journey ahead of ourselves, but I do feel that we need to seize the moments as they come while they're seizable. This trip is a gift. For my parents and for myself. This forum is a gift. For all of us who care about each other. Your words of concern and support mean so much. Please know that I am listening to all of them with an ever open heart.

Blessed Be.
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Michele2 May 17, 2019
This may not help, but just a thought, 16 hours in a car is a long time. Since you’re not leaving, for a little while, maybe there’s some music your Mom and Dad enjoy, that evoke pleasant memories, that your Dad could start playing at home. Maybe a CD of songs from the WWII Era? Then, in the car, you could play them along the way, to help as a familiar transition while traveling to the cabin. Music does evoke some powerful memories. Good luck and safe travels.
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MamaChar,
Just a little lightness here... how in the world do you do a lot of porch sitting in Mississippi without mosquitoes zeroing in on you?! Oh my goodness, here in Florida, they travel from miles and miles away just to light on my arms, legs, and neck!

But seriously, I hope you all have a wonderful time! When I was young, I remember trips to my grandparents in the north every summer.... it so good to have those memories.
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MamaChar May 16, 2019
Thanks! I needed that :)
Well, during the day, it's usually too hot for mosquitoes, plus the ceiling fan keeps a lot at bay, too. And, if it's a good month, we will get a nice little, sometime big, daily rain storm which is AWESOME to sit out and enjoy. We live in west Texas, so rain is a precious thing.
As I said, the 'Old Place' is like a booster shot for the soul. The Lord will be with us, so all is well. Here's to new memories...
And thanks again for lightening my heart!
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Thank you for taking the time to talk about this. You obviously have experience in areas where I have yet to tread. I will definitely take your words and suggestions into consideration, and I appreciate your concern and support.
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Reply to MamaChar
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I urge you to consider putting your mother into respite stay near where they live, and you and your dad doing the trip to Mississippi just the two of you. I suggest that for several reasons.

Even mild dementia can cause her to become extremely agitated if she is removed from her daily routine. Sadly, that place in Mississippi is no longer part of your mother's routine. And her brain may not be able to process the memories.

Your dad needs a break. Putting some physical distance between your father and caregiving may help him recognize that he is burning out.

You don't know how your mother will react, which means there is no guarantee that the vacation would be at all restful or pleasant for either you or your dad. If she has a meltdown, everyone will feel worse.

You and your dad would benefit from having some quality time together.

Your mom's needs are only going to increase. Perhaps use this trip to start planning for how her needs will best be met. Have you or your dad considered what would happen to your mom were something to happen to him?
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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shad250 May 17, 2019
You mean eventually mom living in NH?
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I so appreciate the insights here. Much to think about. Mother's dementia is very minimal at this point, Blessed Be, and she travels well to doctor appts and does well when we go out to eat, etc.
The good news is that I will be retiring at the end of this month and live only a couple of blocks away. I do plan to take up some of the slack on Daddy's care giving and we've talked about him getting away for a weekend fishing trip, or spending a day at his shop, etc. He is reluctant to go anywhere without her other than an hour here and there when he goes for groceries...just because "She has always been there for me and now she needs me." I know he would never consider going to Mississippi without her, so that is not an option.
It is about a 16 hour drive with breaks and we will be stopping after 8 hours for a weekend at my oldest brother's home. She still remembers everyone and their names and will get to visit with them, grandkids and great-grandkids which she loves, too. I plan to do the driving so Mother will be in the backseat and I will be there to help her at rest stops, which, between the 2 of us, will be more often than not. :)
We have a good friend who is caretaker at the Mississippi place, so I do have help when I get there if needed.
Packing for Mississippi is part of who she is, so she'll be adamant about doing it. Plans are not to mention the trip any more than necessary, let her spend a day or two packing if she insists, then 'help' her 'finish' up and pack the car the night before.
Again, I appreciate all the insights, it helps to keep an open mind as to the many scenarios that can occur. We still have several weeks before we leave, so I'll continue to check back here for more ideas...especially on car travelling :) You guy rock! So grateful I found this forum.

I agree with JoAnn that the drive may be the worst part.
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I'm in support of Carytocalcutta's idea of Mom staying home if that's possible and if Dad will stand for it but if not I know exactly the issue you are having with mom. My mom has had a very similar problem for years, that has been getting worse. My nephew graduated last year and we planned a trip (my mother, brother and I) to my other brothers for the graduation and for mom to stay with them for a while, they have an in-law apartment all ready and waiting. Anyway mom wanted to go to the graduation but she spent so much time "preparing" to pack and stressing about what to wear, what to pack her anxiety went through the roof which is typical for any event or having to pack. We even now have learned to to tell her about appointments until the night before or morning of depending on time because any more time only gives her time to get anxious and not having the prep time makes it all so much easier on her and on us. But for this trip as well as other times for instance going to my brothers for Christmas, one of us just had to go and help her pack. Not give her too much time to think about what she needed or how to pack. She had one new carry on suitcase and we packed that. This way were also able to make sure she had all meds and the daily tools for her routine (BS testing etc.) I also made up a book with all of her medical info, doctors, medications, insurance etc that travels with her and we took enough disposable under garments to get her there and ordered more to be delivered by Amazon as well as a couple of bed pads. But back to packing, we "helped" so that we packed if she wasn't but she was included so had some ownership. Since this is a trip they have done for years maybe your mom will get back into the familiar swing of it with some help getting it going. The family packing for the family trip to the cottage. You might even ask even knowing the answer, should we be taking paper towels (just an example) even if it doesn't trigger something familiar to Mom it might be nice for Dad having something closer to the old norm going on. The other thing you have probably already thought about but just in case, it might be a good idea to go over the list of supplies you need or want to take with you for the cottage and pack those things ahead of time, it will cut back on the time Mom has to get anxious if she's prone to that. The other option of course is to go shopping for those items once at the cottage but that depends on the area.

As far as the trip, some of it depends on just how long a trip it is and how well your mom travels (car I am assuming). If she does fine in the car make your regular drive with plenty of regular rest stops, stops for food. I would pack snacks maybe sandwiches she enjoys along with plenty of water (don't let her get dehydrated!) and maybe music or books on tape, things she might enjoy during the trip. An Ipad or way to watch video and some things she might enjoy could help too perhaps. It's harder during the trip but both trip and once you get there stick to her schedule and routine as closely as possible. Set things up in her room they way they are at home but don't force it I guess if instinctively she wants it another way since she may fall into her own old routine there, I would follow her lead with a heightened scrutiny for possible confusion and issues.

A wheelchair came in handy through the airport with my mom even though she doesn't need or use one or any assistance for that matter normally but during a long day of travel and the hustle bustle not to mention distance of an airport it was better for everyone. Depending on your moms physical abilities you might consider a wheelchair for stops or whatever. Try sticking to the program your parents, the family has always followed for the trip so if an overnight stop is part of the routine do it, if not try going without one. Maybe a pillow and blanket set up in the back seat would be good for mom... Great thing you are doing for your dad, for al
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MamaChar May 16, 2019
Thank you for you taking time to talk about this. As I said, I'm more concerned about the stress factor of the traveling aspect. It's a very routine trip as they've (we've) made it for the past 50 some odd years. Of course some of the trip has changed, but she can even remember some of the places we normally stop. When we mention this upcoming trip (occasionally), she is exited about the prospect of seeing the place again and actually, the trip itself and she's very excited that I will be going with them :) It's just been awhile since she's made such a long road trip and I want to be prepared and aware of problems I may not be anticipating at this point. I'm not concerned so much about BEING there, only GETTING there, and I so appreciate your support and suggestions.
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I wouldn't get her involved with the packing. It means making decisions that just make them overwhelmed and anxious. I guess you are staying so Dad can enjoy the time away. Since its a place she is familiar with you may have no problems. How long will the drive be? This maybe the worst part. Sit her in the back seat where you can use child locks on windows and doors.
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MamaChar May 15, 2019
I spent my childhood summers there and most of my adult summers, so I'm actually looking forward to being there, too. It's like a booster shot to the soul. The beauty abounds and there is such peace. The house is actually very small so there is minimal housekeeping and we do a lot of porch sitting.
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Maybe you can find photos of past times spent there and point out to your mom - "see, you're wearing shorts and a t-shirt in this picture; let's be sure to pack them." Plan on bathroom breaks along the way. Make sure she knows how to get from her bedroom to the bathroom once you get there to avoid accidents. A night light would be a good idea since she may not remember where things are and is bound to be a bit disoriented. If she has a routine for meals and medications, write it on a clipboard or a poster board and put it in a place where she can refer to it while she's there - it might reassure her. I think it's really nice you're doing this for them.
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MamaChar May 15, 2019
All great ideas. Thank you for your support, too.
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MamaChar, even if the trip goes smoothly, Dad will still return to the same caregiver situation he had a week or two ago. There is no "vacation" from worry. Thus, I agree with what carytocalcutta had written.

I honestly think it is time to either bring in a caregiver who is familiar with dementia, to give Dad a "daily rest" or for Mom to enter into Assisted Living/Memory Care, if that can be budgeted, where Dad can visit with Mom all day long, and then go home for a restful [as restful as one can be in this situation] night sleep.

My parents use to go once a year to a lovely quiet resort in the foothills, the place had no TV, no radio, no telephones in their room, and meals were served family style from products grown on the resort farm. As my parents got up into age, they decided just the drive to the resort was too stressful for them [2 hours], even if I was driving, and neither had dementia at that time... just a lot of bathroom stops. And not being able to climb the stairs at the resort, or enjoy the hiking. And the fear of being a couple hours away from their doctors, even though there was a fire house less than a mile from the resort.
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Reply to freqflyer
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This sounds like a fabulous commitment of time you are willing to give to make new memories and relive old ones with your Mom and Dad. The thing that struck me the most about your question and reason for wanting to do this is.....your father's burnout. Would it be possible for him to go with you to their Mississippi house and have someone take care of Mom so he can truly have a break?
Please don't think that I am being critical of the wonderful vacation you are planning. With your Mom not having been on vacation for quite sometime, she could become much more disoriented with the drive, and become "lost" even in a place she knew and loved so much. Would your Dad truly get a break from her, or would she be trying to follow him as left for some solo fishing time? Would she be dependent on him to do all he does for her at home, even though you will be there?

When my Mom started her decline (she also has vascular dementia) and I began to see the effect it was having on Dad, I encouraged him to go on a 3 day fishing trip he routinely made once yearly with a church group. I checked in on Mom while he was gone, and decided to take her for an outing the first day for a change of scenery. Mom was still "keeping house" and "cooking". But I witnessed first hand how quickly she was going downhill after being in the car with her for 10 minutes and she became completely disoriented and panicked. She was trying to instruct me where the dry cleaners was to take some suits to be cleaned, only 4 blocks from her house of 50+ years, and she completely decompensated. This was her turf....her home....but she was totally lost.

Mom had cocooned herself at home, not been out, been making excuses why she couldn't go and getting frustrated when she had to go somewhere (she and Dad used to travel all the time...even internationally...and she used to love to go places). I never realized that this was one of her coping mechanisms, a defense strategy, to keep her safe from all that she was afraid of.....and the things over which she was losing control. She became frazzled when it was suggested that she get ready to go anywhere....and I did not recognize that she was simply terrified to leave her safe zone, her home.

Again, I am not trying to discourage you from making and recreating some beautiful memories with your elderly parents. Please, though, make certain to plan for the truly unexpected. If you stop somewhere en route to go to the restroom, will she be able to negotiate a public facility? Would she potentially wander off at the vacation house because she might become disoriented at night? If you are driving in the car, are their child locks on the door so you can secure her? Believe me...I would have never thought I needed them for my Mom's safety, but I did. Would she adjust if she didn't have something she "wanted" because you had not packed it?

Also, perhaps have an honest, open talk with your father to see what would provide HIM with the best break....him go alone and you stay with Mom? Or go for a week, and if things aren't doing well for her, bring her home so he can stay by himself for a bit? Would you have extra help while there if you needed to keep Mom occupied for Dad to do his piddling around without Mom's watchful eye and input? If it's your Dad who needs the rest and stress relief, he can hopefully offer some help as to how you can accomplish this to satisfy everyone.
You are a wonderful daughter for thinking of and trying to organize something to make your parents happy. I hope that by sharing some of my personal experiences with similar circumstances, it will offer additional insight on how best to arrange a successful trip and minimize stress for all.
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