Whether the purpose is to visit friends or relatives or just to have the pleasure of seeing some sights, taking a road trip is a time-honored American tradition.
With proper planning and care there is no reason you can’t take your elderly loved one along for the journey.
In fact, after your loved one’s home healthcare has been completed, and they are no longer homebound, a road trip can be a great way to spend some quality time together.
Here are some suggestions for taking a safe and comfortable car trip with an elderly passenger.
Health. Before you begin your trip, consult your loved one’s physician to make sure you are up-to-date on any health conditions your passenger may have. Make sure all prescriptions are up-to-date and that you have adequate supplies of those medications for the trip. If your loved one takes a variety of pills, consider using a pill organizer. Consult the doctor about any precautions you should take or other health considerations for the trip and keep the doctor’s contact information handy throughout the journey.
A car first-aid kit is an essential for a long road trip. Be sure to include adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, antibacterial wipes, aspirin, tissues, a cold compress, absorbent underwear and any other items you might need in the event of an emergency. For more ideas of what to include in the kit, visit: www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit/anatomy.
Comfort. Anyone can get tired of sitting for hours in the car, but it may be especially true for your older passenger. As you plan your trip, consider scheduling in frequent stops both for using the rest room and for getting a bit of exercise and fresh air. As you plan your itinerary, look for rest areas that offer easy access to public restrooms and outdoor picnic areas.
Delays due to traffic or unforeseen circumstances can happen. You may want to line your loved one’s seat with a disposable bed pad to help keep both seat and passenger clean and comfortable.
Be prepared for shifts in temperature both inside and outside the car, and keep in mind that many elderly people get chilly in air-conditioned environments. Have a lap blanket available for your loved one’s use as well as a light jacket or sweater.
Many elderly people could use a little bit of back support when they ride in a car. Bringing along a small pillow specially designed for lumbar support can help prevent many aches and pains. Another small travel-sized pillow to make short naps comfortable is also a good idea.
Food and drink. Try to maintain your passenger’s regular mealtime schedule as much as possible. To make sure he or she keeps well hydrated, take along plenty of fresh water and also keep a supply of healthy and nutritious snacks on hand in the car.
Safety. Before you leave on your trip, spend some time adjusting the seat belt and the position of the seat your passenger will be using to make sure it is comfortable. Many elderly people have sensitive skin and are bothered by the constraints of a seatbelt. Consider adding a cushioned, wrap-around seatbelt pad for added comfort.
Air bags can be a hazard for the elderly, just as they are for young children. If your passenger will be sitting in a seat with an activated air bag, consider using the back seat or take your car to an authorized car dealer to have the airbag deactivated for the trip.
Mobility. If your loved one has limited mobility, you can save both of you a lot of time and worry by obtaining a handicapped permit for your vehicle before the trip. With this permit, you will be able to park in the specially designated parking areas of everything from restaurants, to motels, to museums and tourist locations.
Does your passenger use a wheelchair or walker? Before you leave on your trip, carefully consider the amount of space you will need to store and conveniently access this equipment. If interior room is tight, you might want to look into mounting a wheelchair rack onto the rear of your car.
Entertainment. One of the pleasures of a car trip is having the time to have real conversations without all the distractions of our daily lives. Also think about playing some of the travel games you might have played together in the car in years past such as “I Spy.” Bring along some of your loved one’s favorite music and use the time together as an opportunity to introduce him or her to some of your favorite music as well. Keeping a deck of cards, paper and pen, some magazines and books handy is also a good idea.
Once you’ve done the necessary planning and preparation, it’s time to look forward to your trip. You probably have taken many enjoyable trips with your loved one in the past. When the period of being home bound due to poor health is over, you will enjoy making some new memories together the past give them.