Sheryl Leary, caregiver.com
Taking a successful vacation when you are a caregiver requires planning and coordination. Here is some information and questions to consider when planning your time away from home.
Vacationing With Your Loved One
Is the destination accessible for my loved one’s abilities? Ensure that stairs are kept to a limit that is acceptable and have railings. Are doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or walker? Will the bathroom accommodate your routine?
Are the activities within my loved one’s capabilities? Sometimes less is more. Be aware that your loved one’s abilities may be different when not in the comfort of home. Allow time for recuperation from the travel before activities are planned.
Have you checked the latest security regulations for airlines, trains and buses? It is best to check with your transportation provider prior to your travel about what will be expected for security and/or inspection. Make sure all medications are in their original containers and anything liquid is kept in a clear separate bag and ready for inspection. Check with your doctor to see if your loved one’s pacemaker or implanted medical device can go through the X-ray process or if he or she will need a separate “pat-down inspection.” An excellent source of information for travelers is the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov). This website has information for travelers with disabilities/medical issues including those with pacemakers, diabetes, mobility and hearing issues.
When going through security at airports, if a separate pat-down inspection is necessary, you may request a private room and caregivers can stay with their loved one.
Alert your travel provider prior to your travel of any special needs your loved one will have. Airlines can provide wheelchairs, or cart transportation through the airport. Special accommodations are also needed for individuals traveling with oxygen.
Remember that elders are more sensitive to extreme heat and more prone to dehydration. Ask your loved one’s doctor about any concerns he may have for fluid intake based on the climate you will be visiting.
Dress in layers to accommodate shifting between air conditioning and the outdoors.
Find the nearest location of an emergency room or urgent care provider in the area you are visiting prior to your trip.
When planning family reunions or large parties, ensure that elders have designated one-to-one time with extended family members. Your loved one may get lost in the hustle and bustle of a large party. Having designated time with your loved one will allow all family members to catch up on the news and events.
Do not compare this vacation with those of the past. When you fall into this pattern of thinking, you often focus on what is different or what you can’t do. Think of each vacation as a new chapter, a new adventure in your life.
Vacationing Without Your Loved One
Make arrangements for alternate caregivers well in advance of your vacation. Do not expect other family members to take on full responsibility for care with only a week’s notice. Ensure substitute caregivers know the dates and expectations for care they will provide.
Have your loved one and the substitute care provider meet before you leave so that they will both be more comfortable together. Ensure that the level of care needed matches the care provider’s abilities.
When using a formal provider for respite care, there are many options. Private home health agencies can provide assistance on an hourly or shift basis. Rest homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes can often provide care on a short-term respite basis if they have openings. The private care provider will have to decide if your loved one meets the level of care their facility offers.
Have a scheduled check-in time with your loved one or their substitute care provider each day.
Be sure substitute caregivers have access to all information needed including: medication schedule (also be sure to have an ample supply of medication available), all emergency phone numbers including doctor, pharmacy, nearest relative, your contact information, a listing of medical conditions, power of attorney and health care proxy information.
Recognize that both you and your loved one will have a degree of worry and stress because this is a change in the routine. Caregivers often need to be reminded that part of taking care of someone else is taking care of yourself. Recognizing and acting on that need for relief is probably the greatest gift you can give your loved one. It is the gift that will allow you to continue caring.
Life changes and vacations change when you are a caregiver. Caregiving does not mean you have to give up your dreams of travel or your simple desire to “get away from it all.” Caregiving means that you have added a new dimension to your planning and creativity to your schedule, but the dream can still be fulfilled.