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Traveling with Elderly Family Members

by Eugenia Lazaris

Nov 3, 2017

© Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime

Age Specific / Multigenerational

Our elderly family members are such an important part of our lives but they create some unique challenges when it comes to travel. From medication needs and routine (or not-so-routine) treatments to loved ones who can’t be left alone, the fear of something going wrong can be overwhelming. The following tips can help you navigate those challenges to improve your chances of a fun, successful vacation.


If your elderly loved one will be traveling with you, plan ahead for health care needs. Research the medical services in the city you plan to visit. If your loved one receives routine medical services like dialysis, they can easily be arranged at facilities in the city you are visiting by contacting them ahead of time to make the necessary arrangements.


Always carry medications in your carry-on bags; never check them just in case your luggage is lost in transit or you experience travel delays. A missed dose of a routine medication can wreak havoc on a delicate system. It is also a good idea to carry a list of medications and diagnoses so if emergency medical services are needed during the trip, doctors can treat your loved one more effectively.


Contact your senior’s doctor ahead of time to notify them of the trip and ask for any suggestions regarding specific health conditions. Provide them with pharmacy phone numbers at your destination so they can call in prescriptions in the event you need a refill during your trip.

Senior couple resting on vacation

Photo: Nancy Dressel | Dreamstime


Make sure they get enough rest. Plan itineraries thoughtfully so elderly family members aren’t worn out by the end of the day. We tend to pack a ton of activities into vacations so we don’t miss out on anything, but, when traveling with elderly companions, less is sometimes more.


Some seniors are not able to travel for a variety of health reasons and sometimes they simply don’t want to leave home; families often feel guilty taking a trip without them. These issues cause a dilemma when a family wants to take a well-deserved vacation or has to travel in an emergency. One solution is to hire in-home caregivers. Private caregivers can make sure all of your loved ones’ needs are met while you are away and can either stay in the home for the duration of your trip or make planned visits during hours of your choosing. If your loved one has long-term care insurance, check with the plan administrator. Many plans cover this service, which helps ease the burden on your bank account.


If you aren’t comfortable with a stranger in your home while you are away, look for a facility that allows a temporary stay, such as a nursing home or memory care facility (if your loved one suffers from memory impairment). These short stays, called respite care, allow them to stay for a few days while you are away attending to business or just getting some much-needed rest and relaxation.


If your family member is receiving hospice care, most hospice companies provide this service as well. It is important to keep in mind that even though you have the responsibility of caring for someone, it is necessary to attend to your own physical and mental well-being.


Planning ahead for travel with an elderly family member can eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress and free you and your family up to have some serious fun. When your senior is well-taken care of during the trip, everyone is able to enjoy themselves and make memories instead of worrying about what could go wrong.


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