Older people may worry more about travelling and be more anxious about the practicalities of travelling by bus, train or air and by the physical strain. They may also worry about a foreign climate or unknown environment. So the first thing to do is to plan ahead. Discuss with your parent the sort of holiday they might enjoy, the places they fancy going to, length of travel they feel comfortable with and the type of accommodation they might enjoy. This will vary by preference and also depending on if they are travelling with their partner, friends, alone or wish to join a group.
Discuss any concerns your parent may raise about travelling and discuss solutions to their worries so they can look forward to their trip without recurrent anxiety.
A pre-travel health consultation may reveal the need for special advice on the mode of travel, choice of destinations and route. Always ask your parent’s doctor for adequate medications to cover the whole trip and with some to cover possible delays. Familiar medications may be difficult to obtain locally overseas and may have different names or tablet doses.
Be aware on the implications of pre-existing illness
Those taking medicines for chronic conditions may have more difficulty remembering to take their tablets when away from home. Reduced stomach acidity may predispose older people to gastro-intestinal infection. Hot climates may aggravate low blood pressure especially in those on anti-hypertensives or anti-Parkinson drugs – this can cause problems in those who get transient cerebral ischaemic attacks (TIAs). There is a greater likelihood of accidents in the elderly especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Poorer balance and postural stability make falls more likely. Reaction can be slower. Brittle bones in the elderly make fractures more likely. Capacity for exercise is often reduced with ageing. Impairment in sight and hearing loss can cause confusion in unfamiliar situations – for example in reading important notices or hearing loudspeaker announcements. Poor short-term memory may mean that travel proves more stressful.
Vaccinations take time. Consult your parent’s doctor or nurse as soon as possible, ideally at least four weeks before travelling. Age is not a contraindication for any vaccine and even if you have received the vaccine before boosters may now be necessary.While age and experience may help travellers to be more careful to avoid risks, vaccinations are as important for older people as at any age. Age gives no extra ‘natural’ immunity to infections and it can make older people more likely to become ill or have complications.
People are now living longer and such is life that few of us are spared from developing age related ailments like arthritis, osteoporosis, circulatory and respiratory conditions, things that can often affect mobility. When booking holidays for the elderly, do not assume that the travel agent, or if booking independently, the accommodation owner is aware of individual care needs. This must be clearly explained at the time of booking to avoid any disappointment. It’s also a good idea to research the resort, locate the nearest medical centre and check the layout of your accommodation. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a villa that has no flat access or ground floor rooms when you have mobility difficulties.
Many older people find they do not necessarily have anyone to travel with and due to fear of being alone in an unfamiliar place, no longer take holidays. Others simply can’t travel without assistance. In these instances, holidays for the elderly are made possible with a selection of specialist holiday providers who organise assisted group holidays for solo travellers and older singles. Another solution is to contact a travel companion matching service or a company that provides travel nurses and carers.
Airports, railway stations and bus companies all provide assistance for older people when travelling. Request assistance when booking.
Lack of exercise in airports and on aircraft can result in venous thrombosis and possibly pulmonary embolism. Swollen ankles can result from sitting still for long periods in a restricted space. Regular exercises on flights are very important and the aircrew may be able to advise your parent. Angina and breathlessness can be worse at high altitude and sometimes in aircraft. If warned in advance the airlines may provide additional oxygen. Those with unstable or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, confusional states and urinary incontinence can have difficulties during flights – usually manageable if you are prepared in advance.
High temperatures can be dangerous for older people and can cause cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be fatal. Drinking plenty of water and keeping hydrated is essential. Taking medication can also have adverse effects in hot weather. Diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, heart and blood pressure medications can make it harder for the body to cool itself, so it’s wise to seek medical advice regarding holidays for your parent before they travel. Also, make sure they use high factor protective sun creams, as aged skin tends to be thinner and sunburn can be worse, making them more susceptible to skin cancer.
Availability of cover for the over 70s can be limited and travel insurance companies tend to impose higher premiums for older travellers. Despite the costs, travel insurance is important to protect your parent should have problems whilst they are away. It’s advisable to get an insurance quote before you book, helping you budget for the overall cost of the holiday. Existing health problems usually have to be declared in advance, including any arranged hospital admissions. Cover may not include, for example, those who have recently had a myocardial infarction or bypass surgery. Even with insurance, in an emergency, quality of care depends upon the available facilities.
For more help with looking after an older relative, visit www.myageingparent.com