Aging Family Responsibilities & Vacation Planning by Charles Watson
Posted on February 8, 2022
Vacation time can be stressful for families if they have a loved one at home who needs caregiving. A stumbling block for many is what to do about Grandpa when he seems to need more and more attention and care. Or, the question comes up, "How do we plan a vacation and take Grandpa with us?"
These questions arise, especially if there has been a change of status in the past year and adult children have to increase their attention and care to an aging family member.
Having a healthy balance means it is essential to focus on the activities and events that give your life meaning while caring for another. You must care for yourself by attending special events or sticking to your vacation plans when supervising for or overseeing an elder's care. If you balance caregiving with self-care, you are less likely to suffer from depression, burnout, or just frustration.
Taking A Vacation…Without The Guilt
As Professional Geriatric Care Managers, the one emotion we hear from family members when a caregiver plans to take a trip or attend an event without the elder is guilt. We often contemplate, "How can I go away when Mom needs me?" or "I am the only one. Is there anyone else I can trust to take care of her? My response is if you don't take care of yourself, you will run out of energy, just like a battery must be recharged. You will feel resentment and care out of obligation, frustration, or anger instead of from a place of love. These feelings also end in guilt, which could affect your sense of self and your health.
We recommend that if the elder is frail and can be left at home, a routine of checks and balances must be set in place. Eldercare Services provide short-term Care Management when the family is out of town—checking on the elder, providing some personal assistants for care as needed, and reassurance of having a skilled professional to respond 24/7 to any emergency.
Depending on where the family is, ElderCare will reach out to them or act in their absence, as planned before the trip. Often families use us for 24/7 live-in care for a parent while they are gone, though sometimes only a weekly check-in by a Care Manager is needed depending on the client's need and the professional's recommended plan of oversight.
Traveling With A Parent
If you plan on taking an elder with you on vacation, we would recommend a consultation with a Care Manager to assist you with all the precautions you will need to take. Prepare everyone for the possible bumps in the plan or the need to reduce the pace of the trip to accommodate an older person's energy or physical conditions. If you are traveling by air and need special considerations, alert the airline beforehand.
Elders often tire easily. Touring and outings should be planned according to their energy level at home. For those with changing mental status due to progressive dementia, changes in the environment can increase confusion and anxiety. You might try a short trip to a local destination to see how your family member does out of their environment before trying a more extended trip; it can be overwhelming to try to calm someone with dementia who becomes anxious.
Travel can be fun and renewing and, if vacations have been part of your life for years, they can be crucial to the caregiver's survival. If this is a value of yours, keep it in your life knowing there are support resources in the community, such as Eldercare Services, to oversee your parent and give you peace of mind.
If traveling with aging parents is your desire, take some time with a professional to learn how to make it work and be realistic with your expectations so that no one is disappointed.