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Summary: These seven caregiver tips can help you be well-prepared for when you travel with your elderly loved one.
As a caregiver, summer vacations and family visits with your elderly patient can be a source of stress. Fortunately, you don’t have to miss out on the joys of travel just because you’re traveling with someone who needs extra help. With a little advance planning and these caregiver tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your next travel adventure.
Caregiver tip 1: Think about weather.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults don’t respond to changes in temperature as well as younger people. Older people also may have chronic conditions or take prescription medications that make temperature extremes more dangerous. As a caregiver, you should ask your doctor what precautions may be necessary to protect your loved one in a warmer or colder climate.
Caregiver tip 2: Be aware of deep vein thrombosis.
Airline travel may also be inappropriate for some elderly patients. The CDC points out that seniors are more prone to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after airline travel, especially if they
- have varicose veins
- are overweight
- have limited mobility.
If your doctor approves airline travel, ask for caregiver tips to minimize the risk of DVT and how to recognize signs and symptoms.
Caregiver tip 3: Talk to a Doctor
Your doctor can also advise whether your elderly loved one needs vaccines or other travel medications such as anti-diarrheals or motion sickness tablets to prepare. As a caregiver, be sure to ask your doctor if your travel plans are realistic and appropriate given your loved one’s health and mobility.
Caregiver tip 4: Arrange for special accommodations in advance
If you are flying, your job as a caregiver is much easier if you notify the airline in advance that you need special transportation through the airport, and off and on the plane. If your elderly patient uses a wheelchair, discuss your needs, and let the airline know if you plan to bring your own. The airline may also let you board early or book bulkhead seats for extra space.
A caregiver booking hotel rooms should also consider any special needs such as roll-in showers at the time reservations are made.
Caregiver tip 5: Put everything in writing
Ask your pharmacist to create a medication list showing exact dosage and administration instructions for every medication your loved one takes. As a caregiver, you should also have a list of your loved one’s health conditions and doctor’s contact information in case they need emergency care.
Caregiver tip 6: Take precautions if your loved one has mental problems
If you are traveling with a person with an elderly person with mental problems, these caregiver tips may make the trip easier, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance:
- Make sure your loved one has adequate identification, including your contact information, at all times. An ID bracelet or card worn on a lanyard around your loved one’s neck will make it easy for others to find her ID if you and your loved one are separated. A wearable GPS device may also give you peace of mind. Keep a current photo of your loved one and calling cards with your contact information you can pass out in case you need help to reunite.
- Stick to your daily routines as much as possible. If you normally lunch at noon and nap at 1 pm, follow your eat and nap schedule on vacation, too. Plan your travel time around naptime and bedtime to minimize disorientation.
- Allow plenty of down time during your vacation. As a caregiver, you know how difficult it can be to calm an agitated loved one, so keep a light schedule and leave unstructured time during your day to deal with the unexpected.
Caregiver tip 7: Pay attention to packing
- As a caregiver, you’ll likely be responsible for managing your loved one’s luggage as well as your own. Look for easy-to-move wheeled suitcases with space to attach your carryon bags.
- Make sure you keep daily medications plus any health devices such as a CPAP machine in your carry-on bag so you have everything you need if your luggage is delayed.
- The Health in Aging Foundation reminds caregivers to keep plenty of water in their travel bags to keep loved ones well hydrated, especially if you’re traveling by plane. A few healthy snacks may also be a good idea if you have a long travel day.
- Finally, take extra precautions against infection. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes in your bag and use them after you leave a crowded plane, restroom, or other public space.
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