If you are a caregiver for a senior loved one who will be going with your family on vacation this spring, there are a few things you should consider before heading out. Preparing in advance can help make the trip more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Thoughtful planning: While direct flights might cost a little more, they can make a big difference when you are traveling with older adults or a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. If you are traveling by car, pre-plan your route and stopovers. Make sure to plan for rest breaks. If your senior family member has any health problems or lives with dementia, driving for more than six or seven hours in one day might not be very realistic.
2. Copy of medical file: No one likes to think their vacation will be interrupted by an emergency, but it is important to be prepared just in case. Make sure to bring a copy of your senior loved one’s medical file that includes their medical history, medications, and physician contact information. You might find it easier to safely store the information in a smart phone app like My Medical App or Care Zone.
3. Emergency contact cards: On the chance that you become separated from your older family member in a busy airport or rest stop, be sure they have a card with your cell phone number on it or they have their own cell phone. Even a disposable phone that you purchase for them just for vacations and outings would work. If your senior loved one has memory loss caused by some form of dementia, you might also want to include additional family members’ names and contact information on the cards. Put copies of the cards in their wallet, purse and pockets.
4. GPS tracking watch or bracelet: If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, consider signing them up for a GPS tracking service. There are several different kinds on the market including some that work off of cellular technology. In the event your family member wanders while you are away from home, you can safely track their location using your smart phone.
If you decide that taking your aging family member with you on vacation just isn’t feasible, a respite stay in a senior living community might be a solution to consider.