Traveling with Seniors
by Zann Chan
Traveling with elders can sometimes be a little tricky and even harrowing. Here’s how to make your trip a pleasant one.
Consult a doctor
Elders are often more prone to certain health issues that require special attention and care. Consult a family doctor or physician prior to booking any overseas trips that might prove to be tricky. Ask the doctor these: Is the selected destination suitable for your elder’s condition? Are there any special vaccinations that would be required or recommended? What medications would help if a certain medical issue arises? Don’t forget to obtain and bring along medical prescriptions so you can get them when needed.
Get suitable transportation
Thinking of renting a car for your trip? Choose larger or more spacious vehicles (eg. mini-vans) that would allow for more easy access. This would allow for space for your elder’s wheelchair or walker, and still make for a comfortable ride. Should you be taking a flying to your destination, inform the flight attendant of your elder’s limitations and your concerns, and arrange for seats assigned for disabled travellers or those with more leg room for a more smoother journey. Also make sure to inform the flight crew of any special dietary needs or allergies of your elder. At the airports, request for wheelchairs for elders who face difficulties with walking or moving around.
Plan accommodation beforehand
Seniors may face more difficulty when moving around and we want to minimise that. When booking hotels, try requesting for a room on the first floor, so that unnecessary trips to and fro the lift can be avoided. Should first-floor rooms be unavailable, ask for a room that is as close to the lift as possible to reduce walking distance. If you’re looking to stay in separate rooms from your elder, connecting rooms would definitely be ideal.
Supportive stockings are highly recommended for elders when travelling for long periods of time, to discourage blood clotting and numbness. Bring basic medical information such as prescription along with you, in case of an emergency. Other things that would be good to pack would be sunscreen, light snacks and water. Having water on hand is crucial, as elders tend to get dehydrated more quickly than us.
Take it slow
Always keep in mind that your elder will not be able to match your energy levels. Carefully consider the amount and frequency of activity, and try to space them out, leaving plenty of time in between for light breaks. Even things like walking and traveling can tire them out easily. Avoid overloading the trip with constant activity – keep it simple and fuss-free. Do your homework on the area you are planning to visit, and check that the place is able to accommodate your elder’s special needs, from wheelchairs to elder-friendly restrooms.
Special tips for elders with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
Routines are important
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia like routine and need to know what lies ahead and what to expect. Routines are able to help reduce their stress levels, and allay their anxiety and fears. Make an effort to follow a familiar order throughout the day, such as keeping mealtimes and bedtimes regular, or better yet, similar to their routine back at home.
Communication is key
Constantly inform your elder of where you are heading and what you will be doing. This will ensure that your elder isn’t caught offguard or unpleasantly surprised. Discuss the activities of the day and allow them to give feedback and change up the itinerary to one that will better suit them. Beware of information overload as well, and avoid bombarding your elder with too much information that might only serve to confuse or frustrate them.
Watch out for unusual behaviour
Anxiety and agitation are some of the most common signs that your elder isn’t coping well with the trip. To calm them down quickly, take him or her aside and away from the current activity to a quiet place where you can be alone. Talk to them to understand why they might be feeling this way so you can make arrangements to resolve the issue.