Clients have shared many interesting stories over the years. Sometimes I get a real chuckle. I often learn something. Cheryl sat across my desk and told me about the time she went to “break mom out” of her assisted living community to visit Aunt Polly in Idaho. It was a funny story, and we gleaned several points worth sharing.
Feeling confident after completing a full scope of estate planning for Daisy, Cheryl was unprepared for their first attempt at travel in mom’s advancing age. The trip turned out to be loaded with misadventures related to bathrooms, meals, medications and just about everything in between. It was an experience to say the least. I think you will learn from their experience.
Mom’s idea of fun is no longer the same
Children traveling with aging parents for the first time are usually unaware of the challenges they’re in for. Mobility and other basic functions of life aren’t nearly as easy for mom and dad as they used to be. Life is slower, more deliberate and sometimes more complicated. When we’re having fun, they may be feeling discomfort.
It’s not just the destination
Destinations are often planned well for aging parents. We know they’re not up to hiking the Grand Canyon, so we pick something tame. It’s not just the destination but the steps along the way. The airport, hotel, meals and meds all need to be taken into consideration. Getting from here to there is easy for us. For Daisy, it was a major production.
It’s all about the meds
Cheryl thought she could just arrive at the assisted living center, pick mom up with her stuff and drive off to the airport. She didn’t think about her medications. Lots of pills, complete with a complicated schedule that took a bit of explaining from the staff. She now knows that they need advance notice to pull it all together. It didn’t take long for Cheryl to realize the impact of medications on their trip.
That blasted airport
Expect everything to take longer: When Cheryl took Daisy to the airport she was in for a rude awakening. She discovered, for example, that she couldn’t just drop mom off at the curb with the luggage and go park the car. Everything, it turned out, was more involved than expected. Mom could no longer be responsible for herself and her stuff the way she used to be.
Get a ride to the airport: Cheryl found herself in a awkward situation when she tried to drop her mom off at the curb to park the car. Despite Daisy’s obvious age, security didn’t like her just standing there. And there was no way she could handle the luggage and get in the terminal. They got lucky when family friends happened to be there to lend a hand. Cheryl promised to get a ride to the airport next time. Mom concurred with an unexpected expletive.
Prepare for TSA screening: Cheryl’s mom was pretty spry with her walker, but a friend recommended a wheelchair. Daisy was miffed when they performed a thorough inspection, including the seat cushion. She made a bit of a scene. Cheryl determined to check the TSA website first next time.
Again with the meds: Cheryl was glad she’d thought ahead regarding Daisy’s meds and TSA screening. Putting most of them in their checked baggage saved them a huge headache. The guy in the line next to them didn’t get that memo. Daisy snickered a little too loud for Cheryl’s comfort.
Timing is everything: What Cheryl didn’t realize, however, was the advance planning required. “Pill time” arrived at inconvenient intervals. During boarding, in the middle of takeoff and on the taxi ride to the hotel. Cheryl needed a plan to keep everything handy, including a bottle of water.
Bathroom breaks: Cheryl didn’t get specific, and I didn’t ask. What she did say, was that bathroom breaks became a real source of frustration. Frequent and unpredictable, they almost missed their flight and nearly had several mishaps. For her, this was the thing that nearly ruined their trip. She built in a lot of extra time on their return trip, making it a much more agreeable experience.
The hotel hero
Spending the night in a hotel with an aging parent requires a little research and advance planning. Although they had reservations, Cheryl hadn’t thought about their need for special accommodations. Most hotels have them, but in limited number.
Upon arrival to their hotel, the desk manager noticed Daisy’s walker and made a suggestion. “You will get through the door to your room without a lot of trouble. That bathtub, however, could be a real problem.” She went on to describe the fact that many seniors find it very difficult to lift their leg over the tub to get in the shower.
They had rooms with special accommodations, but they were all taken. The desk manager saved the day when she consulted with a neighboring property and asked them to hold their remaining room with special access. Being especially kind, she had the airport limo drive them over.
Lessons to learn
Not all aging parents have the same issues. But you can have a satisfying trip with them if you plan around every aspect. Think about their mobility and the terrain along the way as well as your destination. Think about doors, steps, curbs and potentially slick surfaces. Consider the extra time involved with medications and bathroom breaks. Above all, pack a large dose of good humor in your bag. You will probably need it.
Here’s a final piece of advice: Visit the TSA website when planning for air travel, paying special attention to the section on Disabilities and Medical Conditions.