Caregivers’ Corner: Simple Strategies for Happier Trips

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson September 14, 2016 22:02

Autumn is a great time for a road trip. The days are cooler, the leaves are turning and highways are no longer crowded with vacationers.

But for a caregiver, it’s not that simple. Whether it’s a trip to visit family, a beach getaway or a trek to a distant medical appointment, being on the road with an ailing loved one can be problematic.

Packing the necessities – including medications, assistive devices, hats, sunscreen, water, favorite snacks, adult diapers and extra clothing – is just part of the drill.

Consider also how your loved one may weather the trip. Will he get angry and act out in the car? What if she gets bored and unhappy? Will he have an anxiety attack? If you stop at a hotel, will she get up in the middle of the night and wander? How will you get him in and out of bathroom rest stops?

These are just a few of the questions to consider before departure. The answers will help you decide whether to take the trip. Or – if the journey is absolutely necessary – whether flying to your destination and then renting a car would be a better choice.

Most airlines offer special help for the very elderly, disabled and others unable to travel on their own. Wheelchair service, expedited security and special care aboard airliners are often available. And a flight can eliminate hours or even days on the road.

Whether you travel by car, plane or both, here are a few things you can do to make the journey smoother:

  • Call your loved one’s doctor before you go. He or she may prescribe medication to prevent or ease the agitation and anxiety that being away from home can trigger.
  • Decide when to talk about the approaching trip. Some people do better knowing trip details well ahead of time. For others, especially those with dementia, simply helping them into the car when you’re ready to go creates less stress and anxiety.
  • When planning a vacation, stick with the familiar. Choose places you and your loved one have both been before. This will make it easier for everyone.
  • If possible, invite a friend to come along. If the going gets rough, your friend can help drive, keep an eye on mom or – if that friend is really a good one – even help her when she goes to the restroom.
  • Bring comfort with you. Pack dad’s comfortable pillow or mom’s favorite blanket. Bring a selection of CDs with familiar music. Take a laptop or tablet to play a beloved movie as the miles fly by. Include magazines or even an album with old family photos.
  • If mom is likely to wander in the night, consider getting a Medic Alert device with a GPS. A strange hotel can trigger fear, confusion and a search for something familiar.
  • Take plenty of rest stops. A bathroom break, a snack, juice and a little walk can make travel more relaxing for both you and your loved one.

Remember that there may come a time when traveling is too disorienting or stressful for the person you care for. When that time arrives, consider asking a family member or professional caregiver to come stay for a few days while you take a much-needed break.

Above all, enjoy the trip and the company of your loved one while you can.

Joan Jackson is a partner with husband Peter Carrillo in Practical Dreamer (209-588-1835), whose services include free caregiver support groups sponsored by Area 12 Agency on Aging.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson September 14, 2016 22:02
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