A complete guide to planning a vacation with senior parents

A vacation with your elderly parents is a great way to spend time with them. Here are some tips to help you enjoy a hassle free vacation

clicking selfie with parents on vacation

It has never been a better time to holiday with your parents given the travel and tour industry bending backwards to attract more people. Holidaying with your folks is an opportunity to be in a new environment with them which can build on your relationship. If they do not move out of the house too frequently, vacations provide them with a chance to see a changing world which they only read about or sense. Travelling gives the elderly something to look forward to and a new topic of discussion. It also gives them confidence of being able to handle the challenges of new environments.

Having said that, you need to take care of a few things to ensure everyone enjoys this adventure.

Health

Do visit the doctor and get a health check up done for your parents, preferably before making any bookings. Also ensure that you carry a health certificate from the doctor [especially when flying and travelling abroad].

Medicines

Carry the prescribed medicines and prescriptions for the duration of the trip. Carrying their medical files may be helpful if it is a long holiday. If travelling abroad, keep in mind the time difference as this will impact the schedule of medications. Confer with your doctor on how this needs to be dealt with.

Insurance

Insurance has become an important part of the everyday, especially if one works in the private sector. Buying travel insurance is vital to meet any exigencies when travelling abroad . Even within India it becomes important when vacationing with the elderly. Air ambulances do not come cheap. There is the added benefit of being treated by doctors who know the patients medical history.

Booking a hotel

When booking a hotel one usually checks for deals, location, free buffets etc. However, when travelling with elderly parents there are other issues that need to be kept in mind:

  • Presence of a bathtub in the bathroom. A bathtub can be a physical hazard for the elderly because they may not only find it difficult to raise their leg to enter and get out of the tub but also could lose their balance in the process.
  • Provision of bathroom stools for your parents to sit and bathe.
  • Distance of your room from the restaurant.
  • Dietary requirements. Eg: In Asia, most often vegetarian food is cooked with fish sauce.
  • Provision for a bidet-spray in the toilet. [Some hotels and cruise liners only provide toilet paper]

Booking tours within the city

Do ascertain the quantum of walking that is required when booking a city tour. Tour operators may be able to make provision for wheelchairs if they are informed in advance. Also clarify if a wheel chair attendant will be provided. It would be best if parents carry their own bags that have snacks, water, medicines.

Air tickets

There are many boxes to tick when buying air tickets:

  • Ensure that you inform the airlines that you are travelling with senior citizens {and whether you require wheelchairs}. Keep in mind, some airlines offer a senior citizen discount.
  • As some airlines use the same wheel chair for different flights ensure that the wheel chair is with you from check-in to boarding so that your parents can be ferried to the toilet when required.
  • Ensure they wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the flight.
  • For long haul flights ensure they walk and stretch on the flight to avoid cramps or DVT [deep vein thrombosis].

Dietary habits

Travelling is an opportunity to experience new cultures through food. If there are dietary restrictions then do get the hotel reception to write, in the local language, the dietary restrictions.

Maintaining a schedule

Keeping to a schedule ensures nobody gets tired, medicines are had on time and everyone is prepared. This also preps your parents for the day, as surprises can be disconcerting for the elderly. The schedule should cater to time requirements of your parents. Things that should be kept in mind include sleep patterns and morning routines. Rushing unnecessarily increases everyone’s stress levels and compromises the potential for fun.

Keeping your parents informed

Discuss the trip with your parents and get their inputs. Part of maintaining a schedule is keeping your parents informed. This gives them a sense of control and also ensures that they can suggest changes if required. To help in this communication process you need to:

  • Create an excel sheet with activities/flight times and other information which everyone should have
  • Go through the excel sheet with them
  • Parents should carry a tote bag with their documents, medicines, snacks and water during travel. You could keep a master copy with yourself.

Money

Though as a responsible individual you may wish to spend on your parents, it’s important that they carry their own money too. Parents may not like to ask their children for money and a lack of access to money could dilute their fun. Needless to say, this is an unnecessary form of dependence and should be avoided.

Rest

Flights can be fatiguing, not only because of their duration but also because of the travel and processes before and after the flight. Therefore it is advisable to slot in a day on arrival to recuperate before beginning sightseeing. A day of rest before the flight back home should also be slotted in for the same reason.

Misplacing items

Elderly tend to forget things and this is one of the reasons for things getting misplaced. The stress of the journey can also cause your parents to ‘misplace’ things. Searching for such things add to the stress as it reminds them of their frailty, they feel apologetic for wasting time and adding to your ‘things to do’. The way out is to (1) Keep calm (2) Keep a master copy (3) Keep things in perspective so that these moments are not dwelled on and therefore spoil the holiday.

Me time

Make sure that your parents don’t feel that they are coming in the way of you enjoying yourself on the trip. There is no doubt that you will relish the company of your parents, but you also need to do things that are suitable for your age and interest. Therefore keep some time for yourself. Such occasions can also be an opportunity for your parents to do things on their own or rest.

Decision making

As your parents grow old, they turn to you to help them make decisions. In your holiday there will be many occasions when you will be asked to make decisions, infact you may be making all the decisions. You could be called upon to recollect whether they have had their medications besides being asked to make a decision on what to order. Realise that roles have changed and therefore there you will have to be patient with them. Instead of making decisions suggest options and be supportive. It will reduce pressure on you while increasing opportunities of adventure.

Travelling with your parents takes adventure to a whole new level because now your role is that of an adult who needs to cater to the people who took care of you. These are moments to see new places and surprise each other with personal facets that do not emerge in the everyday. By taking care of these basic things you open the door to experiences to build on memories and foster your relationship with your folks.

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