Thursday, December 12, 2013

Caregiver Travel Guide

Traveling with a loved one who have a chronic health condition or memory impairment may be more difficult, however there are certainly steps that can be taken that make the trip well worth it. Melissa Kahn, founder of Kahn Healthcare Consulting LLC and author of The Personal Healthcare Passport says, "Just because someone is living with a chronic condition, it shouldn't prevent them from traveling to visit loved ones, going to new destinations, and having new experiences." Here are some tips to help you along:  

1. Plan Ahead
     Start off at your health care provider. Once you get the ok, have them give you written prescriptions just in case the bottles you take with you are lost. While at your healthcare providers, ask for the name of a doctor or a hospital in the area that you're traveling, in case you need to see someone. If you're going to a location that is in a different time zone, find out if medication dosing times need to be changed. From there, something like shipping supplies or suit cases to your destination may be a good way of minimizing the amount of baggage you carry while traveling. Call the travel company ahead and find out what supplies you can and cannot take onboard. For example, oxygen tanks cannot be taking on board planes. Another good thing is to ask for travel assistance between flights or ask for permission to board early. As for your carry on, always carry medications with you along with a medication list, and bring a pack of goodies, puzzles, a photo album, Ipod with books on tape or movies, etc. Especially for those with memory impairment, things that are familiar such as a specific board game or movie will help ease their anxiety during travel.  They key being, plan ahead to minimize stress. 

2. Have Realistic Expectation
     Be mindful of nonverbal cues of your loved one while traveling. So much stimulus can be exhausting, not to mention the fact that they now have a new routine. Go less by the clock, and more by what they are experiencing in terms of when to eat, rest, etc.

3. Anticipate Needs
    With certain medical conditions comes the need to adapt, particularly to changing environments. For example, someone with heart disease may benefit from wearing support hose for long plane flight to prevent swelling in their legs. Other things to consider might be an extra pair of undergarments and disposable wipes, ear plugs, eye mask, special utensils, and so forth. Likewise, consider travel insurance or find out if your medical insurance covers you and/or your loved at your travel destination (particularly if you're traveling to another country). 

4. Be Flexible
    It's no secret that the travel industry has seen a lot of changes over the past decade. With that in mind, try to find airlines, cruises and hotels that are age friendly. Keep in mind that you might not be able to do some things due to these regulations, however a travel company that is used to catering to health needs, may be more accommodating. Ultimately, expect the unexpected.  

This Monday, December 16th, join me along with other healthcare professionals and caregivers for a Tweetchat to discuss travel woes, the do's and don'ts of flying with elderly loved ones, how to find an age friendly travel company, and hear lots of great tips to help you enjoy your travel this holiday season. The Tweetchat starts at 4pmPT/7pmET at #Nurseup.  

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