If you’re a caregiver, you might think it would be too difficult to travel with an older parent who requires a lot of assistance or special care. In fact, with a little planning and scaling your trip to meet everyone’s needs, you can still get away and have an enjoyable time.

Here are some helpful tips for caregivers planning travel:

Keep It Simple

Plan activities based on your parents’ abilities and limitations. If your parent has limited mobility, renting a one-story lake-front cottage a few hours from home will be more enjoyable than a whirlwind overseas trip with several stops.
A long road trip will be a struggle for someone with continence issues. When your expectations are in line with your reality, you’re likely to have a less stressful getaway. In addition, plan a day or two of very limited activities after travel days.

Tailor Travel to Your Needs

Make reservations, and alert the hotel or restaurant of special needs. Confirm features you need, such as bathroom with safety handrails or wheelchair access to a dinner cruise. Consider renting a larger vehicle to accommodate equipment and to make transfers easier. If you’re flying, make arrangements directly with the rental company office at your destination, well in advance of your trip. If you are renting a car – don’t forget about taking the disability parking permit.

Think Ahead

Familiarise yourself with your destination before you go. Locate medical facilities, pharmacies, and other stores or service providers you and your loved one may need.

Bring Prescriptions

If your trip involves flying, be sure that medication is in its original container and check with your doctor’s office about whether you will need any special certificate for traveling with certain medications. And be sure to review medication side effects, such as exposure to the sun or interaction with certain foods.

Pack Appropriately

Take along support stockings for extended road trips or flights and a backup of medical supplies. An MP3 player or smartphone loaded with familiar music and favourite tunes can be reassuring (like a MemBop). Bring a tablet and headphones to watch movies (InTouch Tab can be included in a Home Care Package).
Have snacks and plenty of water at the ready. Even if your destination offers such provisions, you’ll be better able to enjoy yourself if you have them on hand en route.

Minimise Distractions and Maximise Familiarity

A new environment may be confusing to a person with dementia. Consider bringing objects that loved one associates with routine, such as a whiteboard with the day’s activities, to help acclimate, and try to maintain your loved one’s routine as much as possible. In addition, bring a few favourite items to create a sense of home.

Plan Shifts

You might be the primary caregiver at home, but remind your family that this is your holiday too. Set up a schedule so that everyone who’s old enough has a few hours where he or she is responsible for your parent.

Pace Yourself

Do what you can to avoid feeling anxious or exasperated. Your loved one, especially if they have dementia, will look to you for reassurance and safety. If they sense that you are upset, it may cause agitation. Similarly, if they’re upset, slow down and look for a quiet place. Your elderly relative might not be able to keep up with certain activities, so be sure to work a fair share of downtime into your trip. And don’t forget to take full advantage of the lulls, too—after all, you need to rest as well.