Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Tips for Traveling with Seniors

Jul 07, 2011

Hello! I'm Barbara, and like Amy, I'm new to the AADE blogging team. I'm so happy to be able to share my thoughts with you and discuss all sorts of topics that crop up in our personal and professional lives. Since we are right smack in the middle of summer, I thought I'd start my first post off by talking about traveling.

Traveling in general can be very stressful...and traveling with elderly parents or relatives can be challenging. As the eldest daughter, it has become my job to take my elderly relatives to family functions, not all of which are local. Here are a few lessons I have learned:

Plan as much as possible in advance. When planning a vacation, keep your relatives' mobility in mind. It might not be a good idea to go to a location that requires a lot of walking. Even if they walk daily, something about the hustle and bustle of vacation is more tiring. If possible, see if wheelchairs are available for rent. Several years ago, our entire family of 14 to Disney World - including my 82 year old mother. That $25 daily rent for the wheelchair was the best investment we made. My mother probably could have made it, but it was nice for her to have a place to sit while waiting for our turn on the rides. Also, when she got tired and wanted to walk a bit, the kids had a good time pushing each other around.

When flying, try to get a direct flight. Airlines are very undependable these days – you never know when flights will be postponed or canceled. Pack medications in the carry-on luggage, as well as a change of clothing (at least clean undies) in case you end up having unexpected delays. Carry a copy of medications as well as any relevant medical records. Be sure you or they can handle the carry-on luggage – it is very difficult to assist seniors while schlepping everyone’s carry-ons. Usually the airports are very accommodating in helping the elderly with baggage and transfers. Be sure and ask for help. If your parents are not regular travelers, visually inspect what they pack in their carry-on luggage. Nothing worse than your mother in law getting into a confrontation with TSA agents when they try to take her can of Aqua Net from her carry-on luggage.

Consider how you plan to get to the hotel from the airport. If you are traveling alone with elderly relatives and are renting a car, be sure they will feel safe waiting for you at the airport if you have to go off-site to pick up the car. Find a safe place for them to sit while they wait for you. Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom before you leave and point out landmarks where you plan to pick them up, just in case they get bored and start wondering around. Make sure everyone has their cell phones and they are turned on.

Carry extra water or beverages. Dehydration can be a problem when traveling, especially for seniors – make sure they drink plenty of water. If they take diuretics, ask them when their medications work. You may need to change the timing of Lasix or HCTZ so it does not peak during the middle of the flight. It is difficult enough for able-bodied people to use those airplane lavatories.

When traveling by car, plan for frequent breaks. A quick trip of 200 miles can easily turn into a 6 hour adventure. Discuss your plans and ask what they expect. Many seniors like a leisurely trip with stops for coffee and pie and bathroom breaks.

Most of all, don't forget to have fun! Do you have any tips for others traveling with seniors this summer? Do you ever talk about traveling with your patient's caregivers? Please share!

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  1. Sep 06, 2011

    Barbara: For anyone who uses a Insulin pump, I found that if my trip to visit family was more that 3-4 days, I mailed extra pump supplies ahead Via safe 1st class mail or Fed-Ex. That way i had extra equipment there when I arrived. I mailed an extra BG meter, as I have misplaced more than one in my lifetime. Always travel with Rx for anything needed and imagine the "worst case scenario" ---as it might happen. My 1st pump "died" on NEW YEAR's EVE. At that time, the company could NOT express mail a replacemt for 48 hrs. I needed Lantus or Levimer ASAP. If any Seniors are flying & try to use the small restrooms as a place to inject an Insulin dose--- I don't advise it. It is safer to test & inject while in your seat. For one thing, you will hear the sound for Turbulence in flight. 2nd: no space, and lacks clean surface if you need to use one. I have used the ADA book on travel tips for family members w/ Diabetes as welll as patients. Thank you Barb, for the info. Have a great Holiday Season as THAT is a challenge for diabetis Travelers, as well. Val G

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