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The summer travel season is here, and with it, all across America, families planning on traveling with elderly persons are asking some common questions. Where to go? How to get there? What to do?

Both caregiving and family travel can be highly rewarding experiences, but each has the potential to be stressful as well. Whether you’re planning to vacation with a loved one who needs special care or someone who needs assistance, or you are looking for peace of mind while you travel and a loved one stays home — the key words for success are plan, plan, and plan some more.

When planning a trip that includes an elderly member of the family who may need assistance, obtaining medical clearances from a physician ensures the proposed trip is realistic and appropriate for all family members. Physicians are also able to help older travelers obtain any extra medication that might be needed; provide a list of all medications and supplements; access copies of medical records; and provide contact information in case of emergency.

Another important consideration for traveling with an elderly, ill or disabled family member is the mode of transportation. Most airlines offer priority boarding for special needs passengers, as well as onboard wheelchair availability and priority check-in for wheelchairs and mobility devices. Amtrak provides information on reservations for accessible space, wheelchair usage and oxygen equipment. When driving, consider the possibility of a rental vehicle that might provide more space and accessible features than an owned vehicle.

No matter the mode of transportation, there are many products available to make travel more comfortable. Support stockings, for example, are a simple and inexpensive option to help prevent leg pain or numbness that results from sitting for an extended period.

Once determinations are made about how to travel, a next step might be considering how your vacation will be spent. Planning a slower pace can reduce overall stress for the whole family. Rather than scheduling a full day of activities, it can be helpful to designate certain periods for rest. In addition, many hotels and resorts offer a wide range of on-site activities so people of all ages and abilities can have a great time together — and separately — at one convenient location.

When a caregiver needs a vacation, and an elderly or disabled family member stays home, respite care is one reliable option to consider. Many retirement homes offer temporary respite care or can help arrange daily home care visits to aid in washing, dressing and meal preparation. Enlisting other family members to help, when that is a possibility, provides the benefit of familiarity for both the caregiver and the care receiver.

Here are some tips for caregivers when planning a vacation:

  • Consider whether you need and whether your budget allows for professional assistance, from a specialized travel agent, an aide who can travel with your family or a skilled respite worker. When flying, allow for longer connection times between flights, and arrange for wheelchair or cart transportation between terminals or gates. Similarly, when driving, allow for more frequent stops for eating, stretching and using the restroom.
  • Be aware of medication side effects, such as susceptibility to the sun or interaction with certain types of foods, especially since traveling typically means exposure to different climates and cuisines.
  • Work with your hotel or resort to request a room that best meets the needs of all travelers. Depending on the specific needs of your group, this might mean a first-floor room, adjoining rooms, special accommodations for wheelchairs or strollers, or a room that is close to an elevator.

About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.