This guest post was submitted by Richard Bitner of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services Inc.
There’s no time like the holidays for visiting family. But when you’re caring for an older loved one, making long-distance trips for Christmas, Hannukah, or other festive occasions can be a challenge.
If you’re traveling with a senior this holiday season—whether driving, flying, or taking the train—safe winter travels means taking certain precautions.
Below, we’ve listed a number of smart steps to take the stress out of this year’s festivities and ensure a happy holiday for all.
General Winter Senior Travel Tips
Winter is the most dangerous time of year for traveling in general. With snow in the air, ice on the roads, and fewer hours of sunlight per day, winter presents a number of unique travel risks. When you’re driving with an elder, those concerns are often compounded. Older adults are more susceptible to cold, illness, and injury than others, so small inconveniences and accidents can have major consequences if elder caregivers aren’t careful. (Please note: some of these senior-specific travel tips should be followed year-round, no matter the weather.)
Bring Necessary Medications. Do a double-check of any medications your loved one might need while away from home. Be sure to bring back-ups and information for emergency contacts.
Ensure Comfort Away from Home. Call ahead and coordinate to make sure your loved one will be comfortable at the destination. Bring pillows and blankets for the trip that you can use to keep your loved one comfortable.
Dress for the Occasion. Seniors can suffer from hypothermia at temperatures as high as 65 F. When traveling during winter, warm wear is essential for older individuals.
Watch for Risky Areas. Winter creates icy patches and puddles that represent a risk, even when transferring a loved one from a car to a destination and vice versa. Always be extra careful and provide support when needed.
Senior Travel Tips for Winter Driving
If you’re making a long trip along the interstate this winter, be ready for the dangers of winter driving. What might just be an inconvenience for you and your family can be a life-or-death situation for a senior loved one.
Be First Aid Prepared. If your loved one suffers an injury or health event while on the highway, you don’t want to be stranded without a first aid kit. Make sure your car has one, and be prepared for more than just minor cuts and scrapes.
Plan for Cold. If your car’s heating fails or you become stranded on the side of the road, an older family member can quickly be at risk for hypothermia. Pack extra blankets and heating packs to keep your loved one warm in an emergency.
Play It Safe. Even minor accidents can have major health consequences for seniors. If you’re concerned about driving conditions, be safe—and wait until the weather clears up.
Senior Travel Tips for Holiday Flying
Christmas is the busiest time of year for American airports. Navigating a flight with an elder can be tough, so plan well ahead of time to make things go smoothly.
Be Ready for a Wait. Make sure you have items your loved one might need (such as medications, foods, or comfortable seating) if there’s a wait or flight delay.
Coordinate in Advance. Call your airline in advance to see what special accommodations they can make for your loved one. Having these in place before you arrive at the airport can be a huge help, and staff are usually willing to go the extra mile to make seniors comfortable.
Book Seats Ahead of Time. An aisle seat with plenty of legroom can be invaluable, especially if he or she requires use of the bathroom mid-flight.
However you get from here to there this holiday season, we hope you enjoy the company of family and friends in safety.
Visiting Angels is America’s choice in home care. Since 1998, Visiting Angels locations across the country have been helping older and disabled individuals, providing care and support in the comfort of home. In addition to senior home care and adult care, Visiting Angels provides dementia care and Alzheimer’s care for individuals suffering from memory disorders. There are more than five hundred Visiting Angels locations nationwide.