The world is absolutely massive. With so many varying cultures, belief systems, -- even foods -- out there to see and experience, traveling allows us a window into the lives and activities (or adventures) of those different from ourselves. However, travel is a luxury; for many, mobility is halted by financial, emotional, or safety concerns. Though we can't help with that first one, we're going to do our best to inform and educate so traveling with an elderly loved one becomes a real possibility.
Plan Your Patooty Off!
It isn't uncommon for elderly people to face both mental and physical struggles on a daily basis: organization can become more difficult as individuals age, and four out of five older people take at least one daily medication. As a result, they may find a new environment hard to adapt to.
Clear and coherent plans can go a long way in providing a soothing (as opposed to hectic) travel experience. Plan out daily events (with a little wiggle room to account for slower walking speeds and any necessary breaks) and share the itinerary, repeating it every so often so your loved one gets a sense of what to expect; if possible, purchase tickets to museums, galleries, etc. in advance to eliminate the stress of waiting in lines.
Manage Those Medications
Generally, as people live longer, so does their list of required medications. Once you get the OK to travel from your family doctor, do your best to have everything as organized as possible; pay attention to where things are being stored (as in what bags/pockets/etc.) so you can access them quickly in the event of an emergency, or in case your loved one gets overwhelmed and can't remember. If they have more than a few, store their names and dosages on a document to keep with you always -- it's as important as making copies of passports, credit cards, and any other vital personal information that simply cannot afford to get lost. Most importantly (if you're traveling by plane), do not store medications in checked luggage -- they'll be impossible to access if they're needed.
Additionally, find out if any medications need to be kept cold. Insulin, like many refrigerated medicines, needs to be stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (around 40 degrees Fahrenheit); if it spends too much time outside of that temperature window, it may break down and become less effective. Since hospital and emergency room visits aren't usually on most people's vacation checklists, it's vital that you bring along an insulated bag with freezer packs to ensure they're kept cool.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Traveling is fun; it can be exceptionally easy to get caught up in the concept of a week away from work in an exciting new location. You, as a fully healthy and capable adult, may find yourself wanting to squeeze an activity into every minute of your days to make the most of your time. Unfortunately, many elderly individuals are unable to keep up with that kind of schedule. Do your best to communicate with your loved one and their doctor to discover what they are and aren't capable of -- this guarantees you can prioritize the big things and eliminate anything that might be too much a frustration or challenge.
Being adaptable is a wonderful trait when you're traveling with someone older. The ability to switch gears and re-plan around the current situation (such as sudden exhaustion) can make the difference between a memorable vacation and multi-day nightmare. You may even have to downgrade the entire experience: instead of a week in Europe, or Florida, consider taking a daytrip to a nearby yet still exotic location. In the U.S., there are five times as many motocoach terminals nationwide as there are airport terminals so you'll be sure to find a bus to take you where ever you want to go. Remember: even a small trip can be an adventure!