The lure of soft sandy beaches… Or maybe you’ve been wanting to spend some time at a cottage. Does the open highway call you to take a road trip? But no. You can’t go anywhere. Mom or Dad needs your help. You can’t possibly go away.
Well, actually, you can! It takes some planning and forethought, but you CAN travel with your elderly parent. Last year, I spent time in Granada, a Caribbean island, with Mom. And I took her to a cottage, too, for two weeks. Now, you might think I’m a little crazy, and perhaps that is true. But it is also true that I have a whole bunch of wonderful memories of our special times together, just the two of us.
My mother had dementia. She was bladder incontinent. And she used a walker but became quickly out of breath after taking just a few steps. So it’s not as though Mom was an easy person to take on a trip. Still, she loved to travel and she taught me to always look for solutions to any problems that cropped up. So I put my thinking cap on and figured out how to travel with my mother.
I put a lot of effort into packing our bags before we left. I had to organize Mom’s medications and make sure she had enough of everything to last until our return. I packed laundry detergent (in pods) and a full roll of medium sized garbage bags, for wet bathing suits, laundry and accidents. Talking books replaced the stack of books I usually packed for my Mom because her reading skills had declined. I also packed my iPod and head phones for Mom because she loved music. The only bulky things I had to pack were Mom’s Depends, but they didn’t add appreciably to her luggage weight so they weren’t a problem.
I did my research on our hotel and found a place that was small and on level ground. Our travel agent requested a room close to the beach and I emailed the hotel myself to encourage this room location. Many hotels will not guarantee the availability of a specific room but smaller places work hard to meet client needs and room requests. For safety reasons, I asked the staff to make sure our room fridge was stocked only with non-alcoholic beverages. No problem! Finally, I selected a hotel that had complimentary washers and dryers on site, so I could take care of Mom’s laundry.
Travelling anywhere by air is relatively simple, thanks to the many dedicated airline employees who push passengers’ wheelchairs. It was admittedly a bit of a trick to get Mom to the bathroom on the plane, but we managed. A wheelchair was waiting for Mom upon our arrival in Grenada and the kind attendant pushed her right out to the taxis. Luggage now has wheels, making suitcases a cinch to push. I handled both our suitcases easily, and we shared a flight bag, giving me one less thing to carry. I made sure Mom brought a purse that was small with a long shoulder strap so Mom could carry it with ease. I carried her passport and tickets for safety reasons.
We had a marvelous time together. It was easy to fall into a pleasant routine that made us both happy. Mom spent a lot of time people-watching from our patio. She enjoyed the hotel staff and loved going to the restaurant for meals. If we had to go any distance, I pushed her while she sat on her walker. We made friends, enjoyed each other’s company and had a great deal of fun.
Travelling with your elderly parent is possible, provided you do your homework ahead of time. The success of your trip will depend on how well you do your planning. Your parent will appreciate the change of scenery, and so will you.