Guest Post by Susan Ashby
The ability to travel is one of the best perks of being a senior. Finally, you can travel when you want, and you wonâ€™t be limited by work or how much vacation you have left. Your children are grown, and your vacation doesnâ€™t have to be planned around the kidsâ€™ needs.
If you want to spend a whole trip concentrating on art museums, you can! If you have always dreamed of going on a photo safari in Africa, this is your time. Maybe you and your spouse never had a honeymoon, and now you are both ready to have a romantic getaway.
Whatever the circumstances, there are some additional health-related steps that you should take to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
1. See your doctor. Visit your doctor in advance of your planned trip. This is especially true if you are going to a foreign country. You may need immunizations against diseases that are found there. If you are going on your first cruise, it may be a good idea to have medication to prevent motion sickness. Medication for travelerâ€™s diarrhea is also a good idea. Better to be prepared just in case.
If you are diabetic, discuss with your doctor how to adjust your medication times with crossing time zones on your trip. Make sure your prescriptions are up to date. Check if you need a tetanus booster.
2. Check your insurance. Medicare is not valid outside of the US except for very limited situations. You should get insurance that will cover pre-existing conditions as well as any emergency situation while on your trip. If you are thinking of using a Medigap policy, remember this canâ€™t be purchased at the last minute, so plan ahead.
3. Keep all your medications with you in your carry-on luggage. That way, if your luggage doesnâ€™t make it to your destination, you will have your medications. With your prescription medications, keep some pain meds, allergy meds, and any other OTC medication you may need on your trip.
Also have a list of emergency contacts with phone numbers. A copy of your last doctor appointment visitâ€™s summary will be very useful if an emergency occurs and you are unable to give information verbally. Bring your extra pair of glasses and, if you use hearing aids, bring extra batteries.
4. Consider the room location. If you have difficulty with stairs, make sure the hotels you are staying at have a ground floor room for you. If you use assistive devices, you will require handicapped-accessible rooms. Talk to your travel agent for help arranging for hotels that can accommodate your needs.
5. Plan in rest. Plan your vacation to allow for time each day to relax and even take a power nap. Maybe build in a few days where nothing is planned, so you can rest if you need to. Be realistic about your limitations. If you have a heart condition you might want to avoid activities that are very strenuous.
6. Prepare ahead for exercising. If you are planning a vacation that will require a lot of walking, and the most you do on a typical day is walk from the car to the house, it is time to get out the walking shoes.
Start out just walking on level surfaces and gradually build-up to the type of terrain you expect to be walking on your vacation. Try walking poles for increased stability. They also make a big difference when walking on inclines. Wear the shoes you intend to take on vacation. Make sure they are comfortable and give you the support you need. Build up your endurance.
7. Arrange for airport assistance. Usually, you will be able to get help with a wheelchair or shuttle to your gate right at the skycap, the outdoor baggage pickup. They will be able to take you through security and to your gate. The gate agent can arrange for you to be met at your destination and even to assist you at connecting flights.
Some airlines allow seniors to go to a shorter line in security if the possible long wait in line is too strenuous for you. Many also allow you to board first. Call your airline and find out what assistance is available and how to access it.
8. Prevent DVTs. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) involves serious blood clots in the legs. They can occur from long periods of time sitting, as in while traveling. If your vacation is by car, stop every two hours and get out of the car and walk for about 15 minutes. Get the circulation going again. The same is true in a train or plane. Get out of your seat and walk the aisle a few times. Move your legs and do some ankle pumpsâ€” anything that will get the blood moving.
9. Keep hydrated. Donâ€™t forget to drink plenty of water. If you are traveling to a foreign country, drink bottled water to be safe. Use bottled water when you brush your teeth also.
10. Hire senior care services. If you plan to travel but arenâ€™t comfortable going alone or you have a family member with dementia or Alzheimerâ€™s who needs to have assisted care, consider hiring a senior care service to accompany you or your loved one to their destination. If they are the senior care service you use at home, they will already be familiar with you or your loved one’s needs, as well as their personality. You will be able to relax knowing your senior is in competent care and will have help available if needed while on their trip.
Travel is totally possible at any age, with a little extra planning and preparation. Take that dream vacation or long-delayed honeymoon. It is good for the soul!
Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.