Returning from a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, this week and spending time in the airport, my eyes wandered to and fro, watching the navigation of many elderly traveling alone or with companions (family or friends). Many walked slowly; some used adaptive aids, a walker, or canes, while others were in wheelchairs or being pushed by airport staff. What I appreciated was the desire of the elderly to travel despite presumed illnesses and, I’m sure, chronic diseases and disabilities.
The safety of our elderly loved ones traveling is a top priority. How does one prepare to travel with an aging parent or relative? Top of mind should be the knowledge and documentation of any medical condition or limitations they may have. All adaptive aids need to be serviced and checked. Wheelchairs, canes, and walkers need to be serviced before any travel. Have all the current medications that your loved one takes. Refrain from packing medications; have a printed list of the medicines and a pharmacy telephone number. Warm clothing and outerwear are necessary. Older people often have decreased body temperatures. Airports and airplanes are cold! I have discovered that even neck scarves help keep the body temperature constant. Warm socks and firm footwear are necessary!
Ask for assistance at the airport. The more hands, the better. Airports have many services to help you, whether traveling alone or with a companion. They can and will go along with you to the departure gate. The same privilege applies to the arrival gate if it is a domestic flight. There are different circumstances for international travel.
Travel Ready Tips
Before the trip, schedule a doctor’s appointment for your loved one, especially if you’re going on a long journey. Traveling can add stress to a loved one; hence, a checkup is always a good idea. You want to ensure your loved one is healthy enough to travel, making the trip more relaxed. Ask the doctor for a medical card for loved ones with any implants or internal medical devices. Present this information to the proper authority at the airport.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, the safety of our elderly loved ones is what matters most. The best travel tip is to give yourself extra time to arrive at the airport and navigate your way to the gate. Traveling with our elderly loved one is always possible, and it requires some additional preparation, patience, and a lot of love! Be Safe! Be well!
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager, CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.