It's that time of year when traveling with the family seems like the perfect idea! Perhaps you have spent the entire year planning it and keeping your fingers crossed for great weather!
But reality sets in... especially if you are of the "Sandwich Generation"- known as being in between 2 generations... your kids and then mom and dad. Mom and dad may be at the age when they can no longer travel independently. So, this carefree, relaxing vacation could turn into more of a care-giving event, juggling the kids AND the elders, making it a stressful time rather than the dream vacation you had envisioned.
But the news is good - proper planning and the foresight to anticipate potential problems can make or break your trip.
- Be Realistic. Plan a trip so that your elderly loved ones can participate in at least a few of the fun activities - scheduling a 3-mile hike may not be the best choice. However, a nature walk where trails are paved or do not require a lot of climbing can be enjoyable for everyone. Be aware of their physical condition... if, for instance, they are on high blood pressure medication, keep the inclines to a minimum and watch for any signs of increased blood pressure.
- Set expectations. Once the destination has been selected, have a good idea of where you want to go and activities you want to do. Don't feel compelled to fill every second with a planned activity—don't underestimate down time! Especially when traveling with an older person, taking time for a good stretch to stay flexible or just simply resting, can help to prevent exhaustion and potential injury. If mom or dad have just recently recovered from a physical injury or surgery and they must continue to do their exercises and rehab while on the road, be sure to make time for them to do this, as well.
- Plan time away from caregiving. It's OK to enjoy some alone time! You may even have an extremely fit elder who is physically fit but may have some dementia issues—this can unfortunately wear on you. Having time for yourself is important to keep your patience in check and to recharge your battery — let someone else in the group watch over mom or dad while you take that needed rest.
- Ask for things that will make your life easier. Most times, airlines, resorts and hotels are all too happy to oblige when it comes to special requests. This may include the need for a wheelchair at the airport, additional time in boarding the plane, as well as being given a room that is ADA certified.
Plan. Plan. Plan. Now go and enjoy that vacation with your whole family!
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