Caring for aging loved ones is a big job, and probably one you were not trained for! Caregivers, especially dementia caregivers, can experience a large amount of stress. Most caregivers pour all of their energy into taking care of their loved ones, neglecting their own needs. This can result in physical and psychological reproductions.
Taking care of yourself is so important. In fact, as noted above, it’s one of the best things you can do for your loved one. Taking a break allows you to come back rejuvenated and ready to continue caring, instead of resenting your loved one. Whether taking a vacation means taking your loved one with you or leaving them with a substitute caregiver, know that the extra planning is totally worth it and benefits everyone!
Taking a successful vacation when you are a caregiver requires planning and coordination. Here are a few tips to consider when planning your time away from home.
Vacationing with Your Loved One
• Before you go, find out if the destination is accessible for your loved one’s abilities. Ensure that stairs have railings and are limited. Learn if there are doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or a walker and find out if the bathroom will accommodate your routine.
• Are the activities you will complete within your loved one’s capabilities? Sometimes less is more. Be aware that your loved one’s abilities may be different when not in the comfort of their home. Allow time for recuperation from the travel before activities are planned.
• Prior to travel, review the latest security regulations for your form of travel. If you’re flying, make sure all medications are in their original containers and anything liquid is kept in a clear, separate bag and ready for inspection. Check with your doctor to see if your loved one’s pacemaker or implanted medical device can go through the X-ray process or if he or she will need a separate “pat-down inspection.” When going through security at airports, if a separate pat-down inspection is necessary, you may request a private room and caregivers can stay with their loved one.
• Alert your travel provider of any special needs your loved one will have. Airlines can provide wheelchairs or cart transportation through the airport. Special accommodations are also needed for individuals traveling with oxygen.
• Remember that elders are more sensitive to extreme heat and more prone to dehydration. Ask your loved one’s doctor about any concerns he or she may have for fluid intake based on the climate you will be visiting. Also, dress in layers to accommodate shifting between air conditioning and the outdoors.
• Find the nearest location of an emergency room or urgent care provider in the area you are visiting.
• When planning family reunions or large parties, ensure that elders have designated one-on-one time with extended family members. Your loved one may get lost in the hustle and bustle of a large party.
• Do not compare this vacation with those of the past. When you fall into this pattern of thinking, you often focus on what is different or what you can’t do. Think of each vacation as a new chapter.
Vacationing Without Your Loved One
• Make arrangements for alternate caregivers well in advance of your vacation. Do not expect other family members to take on full responsibility with only one week’s notice.
• Have your loved one and the substitute care provider meet before you leave so they will both be more comfortable together. Ensure that the level of care needed matches the care provider’s abilities.
• Consider using a formal provider for respite care. Private home health agencies can provide assistance on an hourly or shift basis. Rest homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes can often provide care on a short-term, respite basis if they have openings.
• Have a scheduled check-in time with your loved one or their substitute care provider each day.
• Be sure substitute caregivers have access to a medication schedule (be sure to have an ample supply of medication available), all emergency phone numbers, including a doctor, pharmacy, nearest relative, and your contact information, a listing of medical conditions, and power of attorney and health care proxy information.
• Caregivers often need to be reminded to take care of themselves. Recognizing and acting on that need for relief is probably the greatest gift you can give your loved one. It will help you continue caring.
Life changes and vacations change when you are a caregiver. Caregiving does not mean you have to give up your dreams of travel or your simple desire to get away from it all. Caregiving means that you have added a new dimension to your planning and creativity to your schedule, but the dream can still be fulfilled.
By Sheryl Leary for Caregiver.com