Happy Aging is a unique series focused on how to help you age well. These stories have been created in cooperation with AARP and Word In Black.
Whether it’s a routine trip to the grocery store or a surprise vacation to the Mediterranean, travel is an essential part of life. As a caregiver, keeping clients and loved ones safe during any journey can unearth unique challenges. Imagi Khatoum, an engineer from Atlanta, remembers when she was starting to travel with her 92-year-old father. “I was cautious about every move he made,” she says. “He was determined to drive everywhere. I had to beg him to let me take him places.” No matter the condition of your care recipient, there are basic tips for getting around safely.
Know your care recipient
What are their medical conditions, dietary restrictions, and personality traits? Do they prefer spontaneity over routine? Are they nocturnal? Having an idea of who your care recipient is can help you identify when they need special attention. It’ll also help you make reasonable travel plans.
Know your destination
You don’t need to be a human atlas, but you’ll want to know:
- Has your care recipient ever traveled to the destination?
- If you’re driving a long distance, have they ever been in a car for an extended amount of time? If you’re flying, have they ever been on a plane?
- What transportation and lodging options are available at your destination?
- Are these going to accommodate your care recipient?
Compile necessary identification documents
Make sure your care recipient’s license, social security card, insurance cards, and/or passport are up to date. Keep them together and in an easy to remember place.
Speak with a health care provider
If your care recipient has medical conditions, talk with their physician about your travel plans. Make sure you have access to their medications and mobility equipment. Try not to schedule any doctor’s appointments close to your departure or return. If your reason for travel is a doctor’s appointment (in- or out-of-state), then check in with your care recipient’s physician beforehand about any travel precautions.
Prepare an emergency contact list
Detours happen. So do cancellations and unforeseen emergencies. Ask yourself who you should alert (relatives, friends, or an organization) if something happens. Give some thought to how you might alert them, too. Inform at least one emergency contact about your travel plans ahead of time.
Set aside emergency funds
If, for some reason, you have to leave your trip early or extend it, it’s helpful to have money set aside. Depending on your destination, you’ll want to consider cash, prepaid debit cards, and credit cards. What banking options are available where you are going?
Think “clean and comfortable,” then prepare accordingly
If carrying hand sanitizer, wipes, and lotion with you at all times is your “nirvana,” then so be it. Prepare accordingly. (This goes for clothing and under garments, too.)
Traveling can evoke some pretty intense emotions, especially if you’re feeling famished. Gather snacks that keep you nourished and grounded. Pace yourself, as well, to steer clear of burnout.
Above all, remember to stay encouraged on your journey with your care recipient.
Find more information from AARP about caregiving, here.