If you’re raising young children AND caring for an aging parent(s), you are in good company. Affectionately known as the sandwich generation, millions of families just like yours are working hard to keep all three generations happy and healthy.
That said, taking time off is essential to keeping yourself in balance. But how can you enjoy a great vacation if you have to worry about an aging loved one back home? Instead of choosing not to go away, more and more families are taking their aging parents on vacation with them. To do this well, many will pay for a professional caregiver to travel along and provide needed companionship and care for the elderly person.
As founder of CT Help at Home and a person with aging parents myself, I’ve become well-versed in traveling with the elderly and their caregivers. Here are a few of my special tips for traveling with a parent and their caregiver.
Cruises are an easy way to travel with your elderly loved-one
Taking a cruise with elderly parents is a wonderful and flexible way to reconnect your entire family. There are no suitcases to lug around and once everyone is settled into their suites, there are plenty of food and entertainment options to meet the different needs of an elderly person. Be sure that the caregiver understands what is expected and that they will need to stay with your loved one at all times.
- Book a handicapped cabin with two double beds so the caregiver can stay in the same room and assist with nighttime bathroom visits, medical issues and in-room meals
- Book a cabin that is close to an elevator to avoid all those endless hallway trips
- Book any events or activities that your parents may enjoy in advance. They fill up fast.
- Make sure you have what’s needed including medications, snacks, entertainment like an iPad or an easy game, adult diapers if required, etc. (see my checklist at the end of this blog)
Graduations, weddings, and weekend getaways
Your elderly parents are most likely very proud of their grandchildren. Giving them the opportunity to attend a graduation, wedding, or even a quick visit to see a new grandchild can be a wonderful experience and treasured memory for both.
- Once again, book a handicapped hotel room with two double beds so that the caregiver can be with your loved one 24/7, especially at night.
- The caregiver should have the keycard to their hotel room. If the celebration events become tiring, the caregiver can take your loved one back to the room for a rest or nap, allowing you to still enjoy the day.
- Be sure to scope out the closest medical facility just in case of illness or a fall.
- Plan meal reservations that accommodate your parent’s mobility and menu restrictions.
- Don’t forget to bring medications and other essentials. (see my list at the end of this blog)
- Relax and enjoy the weekend!
Snowbirds: Seasonal travel with your elderly loved one and their caregiver.
Going back and forth for the seasons can be worrisome when leaving an elderly parent behind. Many of our clients have found that taking their parents and a caregiver along with them is a great way to relax and live the life they want to live. No more worrying about what’s going on back home.
- If you are taking a flight, make sure to arrange a wheelchair at the airport.
- Try to get the elderly person an aisle seat next to the caregiver so that any urgent bathroom visits can be easily managed.
- Be sure to pack a carry-on with snacks, appropriate entertainment, and adult diapers if necessary.
- Keep a round of medications in the same carryon bag just in case of a weather delay.
- Once the plane has landed, make sure there is a wheelchair at the arrival gate. Prearrange any airport ground transportation, if possible.
- Make sure your vacation home has an extra bedroom for the caregiver. It should be immediately adjacent to your the elderly person’s bedroom.
- Scope out medical facilities that may be needed in an emergency.
- Be sure to remind the caregiver to never leave your loved one out in the sun.
- Check out senior centers and adult day care programs for your elderly parent to enjoy. Your caregiver can attend these activities so that you can relax and enjoy a round of golf or a few, worry free, hours on the beach.
Many of our clients take a few weeks each summer to jump in the car or on a ferry to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore, or Block Island. No matter where you go if you invite your loved one to vacation with you, bring a caregiver along to help. A good caregiver would know that the job includes watching and caring for your parents at all times— day and night.
- Book round trip ferry reservations for your entire party including the caregiver.
- Book round trip ferry reservations for your car so that getting and elderly person to and from the vacation house will be stress free.
- Make sure the caregiver has a bedroom close to your parent and within close proximity of a bathroom.
- Have ample groceries and disposable paper goods ordered a few days in advance and delivered to the house just as you arrive.
- Find a senior center or adult day care programs that your parent can attend with their caregiver.
- Scope out medical facilities
- Don’t forget to pack the necessities.
- Bring extra linens . . . just in case.
Compensating your caregiver
A well-matched caregiver is often considered to be like family. They always deserve to be treated with respect, but here a few extra rules for vacations.
- Caregivers on your vacation should receive their normal hourly fees.
- Meals and accommodations should always be provided and paid for. If you are having a family dinner, the caregiver should have a seat at the table next to the elderly person so that they can attend to any needs.
- A separate bedroom that is in close proximity to your parent’s bedroom should be provided at your vacation house.
- A shared room with two double beds should be provided at hotels or on cruises. The caregiver should stay in the same room with your elderly loved one.
Hiring a professional Care Manager
While a savvy caregiver might be able to help with some of the arrangements, you will still need to participate in order to get everything accomplished in time for your vacation.
If you are working or just don’t have time to handle all the preparations listed above, we recommend hiring a Care Manager to handle the details of traveling with your elderly loved one. The Care Manager will not travel with you but can provide assistance in many ways, such as:
- Making sure there is a 90 day supply of medications before you leave
- Scoping out highly rated medical facilities in case of emergency
- Locating senior centers and adult day care programs that are appropriate for your loved one and arrange transportation to and fro if necessary
- Ordering groceries,having them delivered just in time for your arrival, and keeping the pantry stocked up all during the vacation
- Making sure any household needs are arranged for, such as cleaning and meal preparation
If your family has the means and desire to hire a care manager, we at CT Help at Home would be happy to provide this service for an additional fee. You will find this very worthwhile if you want to avoid the stress of forgetting something important.
The Caregiver’s Checklist!
Here is my partial list of items you should make sure are packed for an elderly parent.
- Over the counter aids such as sunscreen, antacids, car sickness medications, grooming products, adult diapers if required, etc.
- 90 day supply of prescription drugs. Blister packs are great and can be prepared by your pharmacy
- Photo ID, insurance and prescription cards
- Hearing devices with extra batteries
- Mobility aids such as a walker, rocking beach chair or even a fold-down wheelchair
- Prescription glasses and sunglasses
- Plenty of changes of clothes that can be layered, if necessary
- Hat for sun protection
- Healthy snacks for anytime
- Small bottles of drinking water in a small cooler
- Entertainment for planes and cars (an iPad, playing cards, and board games are all great and can make a long trip seem shorter)
- A roomy handbag or a large tote to carry small quantities of the necessities above on the plane or ferry, in the car, on outings, or trips to the beach
It’s time to go!
My advice is this: Take that trip or vacation. Bring your loved-one(s) and their caregiver along to enjoy your time with the family. Hire a Care Manager for stress free planning. Read the checklist. Call us if you need a good caregiver and/or a professional Care Manager.
CT Help at Home