As summer is approaching, now is the time to begin making travel plans. Traveling with an elderly person is possible if certain precautions are taken ahead of time. Whether you are planning a trip to visit family in another state or an adventure in another country, you may be able to skip the part about hiring someone to stay at home with your parent. Getting away with your aging loved one may be the perfect solution for the both of you to get some well-deserved respite.
When making reservations for a hotel, let the concierge know you need a ground level room. Rooms as close to entrances as possible will cut down on walking distances and will be a welcome perk after a long day. If you can find a hotel within walking distance of restaurants and sightseeing attractions, the convenience will be worth the extra cost per night. Elderly people do not walk fast and need to take frequent breaks. There are many reasons you might need to return to your hotel, and having it close by is advantageous.
If your traveling companion is up for renting a wheelchair, check with the hotel ahead of time. They may have one for rent or available as a courtesy. Even if your elderly companion is against using one at first, it is good to know you have planned ahead.
Long Car Trips
Frequent stops to stretch legs are a must. Blood clots are more likely to form when a person remains sedentary for longer periods of time. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends the following steps to preventing blood clots from forming:
- Change your position often, particularly on long trips
- Wear compression stockings to help with circulation
- Wear loose fitted clothing
- No sitting for more than one hour at a time
- Eat minimal salt
- Take prescribed medications as directed
These recommendations are helpful to keep in mind for long car trips and on airplanes. It is important to speak with the doctor before heading out on a long trip to ensure the elderly person is in good enough shape to travel and if any special accommodations should be made.
Traveling at the Airport
The airport can be a place of anxiety for many people. Traveling with an elderly person can magnify that anxiety. Yet sometimes the best choice to get where you want to go is to fly. TSA has made traveling with passengers over the age of 75 easier. They no longer need to take shoes or light jackets off when passing through screening. If the alarm is triggered during the walk through, they are allowed to sit down for further screening.
If the elderly person traveling with you has a cognitive impairment or disability, it may be possible to utilize the pre check option. By letting TSA know of the condition, they will allow certain accommodations. You can download and print off their notification card in order to communicate your needs in a discreet manner and help the security process run smoother. This also helps when traveling with medications. Medications will be screened and should be clearly labeled. They should also be separated from the rest of the baggage. Medications are an exemption to the 3-1-1 liquids rule, but they still need to be placed in clear zip-top baggies.
The Future of Travel for Elderly
Boeing has submitted a patent for approval to begin using RFID bracelets for unaccompanied minors and elderly or disabled persons. This RFID would allow the process of traveling at the airport and on board airplanes a much more seamless and worry-free process.
With technology like this, wheelchairs could be more reliably waiting for passengers not only when they disembark, but also upon a scheduled checking in. It also allows for more independent traveling through the use of real time monitoring of older persons who still want or need to be able to fly without accompaniment. It is similar to the already existing wearable locating devices used for people with autism prone to wandering, but this technology may spread to other venues and applications, including railway travel and personal use for traveling with an older person prone to wandering.
In the meantime, keep all identification, including a list of current medications, with you and on the elderly person through the use of a lanyard or ID card. Put your cell phone number prominently among this information for easier contact in case your elderly loved one gets lost. Traveling with an elderly person may take a little extra planning, but when you arrive at your destination, it will be worth it.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2012).Your Guide to Preventing and Treating Blood Clots. Available at http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/disease/bloodclots.html#preventing. Last Visited April 6, 2016.
Transportation Security Administration. Screening for Passengers 75 and Older. Available at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/screening-passengers-75-and-older. Last Visited April 6, 2016.
FPO. (2015). System and Method for Monitoring a Traveling Passenger Requiring Assistance. Available at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20150269699.pdf. Last Visited April 6, 2016.