Your elderly father still lives independently but hasn’t traveled much the past several years because of declining health. As a result, you’d like to take dad on a cross-country trip so you can both reconnect with relatives you haven’t seen for a while. Dad is set in his ways and can be cranky at times, so getting him there comfortably is going to take some planning and preparation. Whether it’s by car, ship, plane or train, traveling with a senior should go much more smoothly when taking these steps.

How Does Traveling Benefit Seniors?

A recent poll conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that nearly 90% of the seniors they surveyed felt that traveling regularly helped improve their sense of wellbeing. Other studies have determined that traveling benefits seniors in these ways:

Heart

Taking a trip keeps a senior more active, which exercises their heart and helps keep it stronger.

Cognitive

Traveling abroad gives them the chance to meet new people, learn new things, and explore new places outside of their normal daily routine. That stimulates brain activity that keeps the mind sharp and slows down cognitive decline.

Emotional

Social isolation has been linked to loneliness and a lower quality of life in the elderly, so it makes sense that interacting with others while traveling, including family and friends, has a positive effect on a senior’s emotional health.

Planning Your Trip

As a caregiver, here’s how to plan for the next trip with your loved one so that it’s a more enjoyable experience for the both of you:

Check with Their Doctor

Check with your loved one’s doctor to make sure they’re cleared to travel, and if there are any restrictions. Discuss any health conditions that could place them at risk while in certain places, for example at higher altitudes or in tropical climates. Get a list of their medications so you can help keep them compliant, and make sure they’re updated on vaccinations beforehand.

Make Special Arrangements

If your loved one uses a wheelchair and you’re flying, ask the airline to book your seats in a disabled row near a bathroom. Don’t forget about TSA security checkpoints, as something like surgical implants could set off their metal detectors. And, make sure your senior wears comfortable shoes that are easy to get on and off.

Schedule Frequent Breaks

When traveling long distances by car, make sure to allow for some downtime so that your loved one doesn’t feel rushed. This is notably important for someone with dementia. Allow plenty of extra time for meal, restroom and stretch breaks no matter how short or far the trip is.

Prepare Important Documents

Before leaving, make copies of all your senior’s ID cards, including their driver’s license, Medicare and health insurance cards, any advanced medical directives, prescriptions and doctor’s instructions. If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, the Family Caregiver Alliance recommends that they wear an ID bracelet or GPS tracking device.

Pack a Bag with Essentials

Based on your destination and mode of travel, pack a lightweight tote or carry-on bag with essential items that will keep your loved one more comfortable, like:

  • Bottled water
  • Medications
  • Important documents
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Nutritious snacks
  • Travel pillow
  • Books, deck of cards and crossword puzzles

Accommodate Their Schedule

Many seniors tend