Can you vacation with your aging parents? Yes!
When Mom had Parkinson’s and Leukemia, and Dad had early-stage Alzheimer’s, we took a family vacation to Mount Rainier.
We visited the highest mountain in the Pacific Northwest.
Mom had always loved Mt. Rainier and wanted to see it another time. Thanks to careful planning and creative thinking by my sisters and me, our family trip went well. We shared love and laughter.
If you are considering your own family trip, what are you waiting for?
Choosing the Destination
Where you and your family will go will be your choice! There are many destinations to enjoy. You can make your choice based on a previous family vacation. Our family went somewhere we'd been before and loved it!
Or, you can explore new places. Looking for ideas? Read Some of the Best Travel Destinations for Senior Travelers.
Travelling with aging seniors can seem difficult. If driving, consider the condition of your vehicle. Is it roadworthy for such a trip? Vehicle size is another factor. Larger vehicles allow for more legroom and storage space. Can you pack a wheelchair or walker in the trunk?
Think about your travelling companions as well. On our trip, my sister brought her two rambunctious young children. They would have been too noisy for Mom and Dad’s liking. Our answer was to split up. I flew with Mom and Dad halfway. Then, I rented a car and drove the rest of the trip to Mt. Rainier.
The trip quieter for my parents, and we had a secondary vehicle when we reached our destination. If you fly and are not going direct, allow for extra time at airports for slower-moving seniors. When booking, request aisle seats on a plane for more legroom and easier access to the washroom. If driving, allow time for rest stops while on the road. Let everybody get out of the car and stretch.
What to Do?
There can be plenty of “senior-friendly” activities on your trip. Mom and Dad had been enthusiastic hikers. But now, they couldn't handle steep terrain. When doing research before the trip, we found wheelchair-accessible paths to explore. We also learned that we could rent a wheelchair from the local Red Cross office to take with us for Mom’s use. In their younger years, Mom and Dad would have eagerly tackled the climb to a scenic viewpoint. In our research, we found an easier way to reach the peak – a ski chairlift!
Packing Tips for Elderly Parents
When travelling with elders, you don’t need to pack along much extra than you would for a personal trip. Clothing, shorts, t-shirts, a swimming suit and a towel, and an extra layer for the chillier days and nights.
Google the destination’s weather forecast before you leave and pack appropriate garb. Mom and Dad’s clothing should be looser fitting to allow for dressing and to encourage more movement. Pack a sweater which buttons up the front. Avoid crew-necks which need to be pulled overhead. Two pairs of comfortable footwear is a must.
Today’s smartphones have built-in cameras. You don’t need to remember rolls of film, can snap as many photos that you want, and can e-mail your photos to others.
Considering buying one of the new, low-cost Polaroid cameras. These are great for on-the-spot photos. Your parents might enjoy seeing the images immediately. Another plus: it's point and shoot, no fidgeting with a smartphone required.
If Mom or Dad is taking some type of medication, remember to bring along enough of a supply to last for your whole trip (and, if flying, keep these pills in your own carry-on luggage which is less likely to go missing!).
Pack one extra duffel bag for products that will make hotel stays safer. This duffel could include:
- Raised toilet seat: A portable foam raised seat will make toileting easier for seniors. Pack in a plastic bag, and bring baby wipes to keep clean.
- Non-slip bath mat: This will make hotel showers and baths safer. Pack this in a plastic bag too, as you may not have time to air dry it between stops.
- Continence products: Don't count on being able to buy your elderly parent's favorite brand or size on the road.
- Lights: When getting up in the middle of the night in a strange room, it's great to have a portable flashlight. Pack 2 nightlights too, so the room is never pitch-black.
When planning for summer travel with elders, also remember to keep everyone well-nourished. When going out to explore your holiday destination, carry an extra water bottle or two in a day pack. Many of your meals will be at restaurants. Check the menu for food that is easier-to-chew and swallow. Family caregivers could also offer to cut up food into smaller portions which will be easier to eat.
Vacationing with your folks can be enjoyable. A little extra research and preparation will go a long way towards creating many wonderful memories. Get packing!
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