It’s summer and time to travel, so for this blog post I will recount two travel experiences with my elderly parents, and share my thoughts on what I did to meet my parents needs, and how I could have made their trip more comfortable.
I remember a time when my husband, Mitch, and I took my parents to our cottage when they were in their 80s. We celebrated Dad’s birthday and Thanksgiving, and took them on a tour of Mont Tremblant Quebec, which Mom and Dad enjoyed immensely, especially the vibrant colour of the fall leaves on the mountains. I’m so glad we had this precious time together.
Before leaving, I checked to make sure that my parents had all their medications, and had turned everything off in their house. Since it was a five hour drive from Cobourg, we stopped to stretch every two hours, because travelling increases the risk of blood clots in the legs, and elderly joints become very stiff when they are in a sedentary position for a long time. To my surprise, Mom got motion sickness while travelling through a very hilly section of highway in the Laurentian Mountains. I had never known her to get motion sickness before. Having a towel and a plastic bag in the car would have come in handy.
Once we arrived, I took my mother’s arm to help her climb the 26 steps to the cottage, because she was unsteady on her feet. I didn’t think of plugging in night lights though, which would have helped my parents find the washroom and prevent a fall at night. In hindsight, I should also have offered them the bed with the firmest mattress.
In my father’s 90th year, he longed for one last visit to Newfoundland so my brother, David, offered to take him. They were scheduled to leave a week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Sadly, Dad lost his nerve to fly and refused to go. David and Dad postponed their trip until the following summer, but by spring my father was suffering from congestive heart failure. He sought the advice of his family doctor to help him decide whether to go or cancel his travel plans. Fortunately, he followed his doctor’s advice to not travel, because in June he spent a week in the hospital, and he died in September, surrounded by his family. The lessons learned here are to never postpone anything important for very long in later life, and to always check with your parent’s family doctor before travelling, if he or she has a serious medical condition.
By Shirley Roberts, Author of Doris Inc.: A Business Approach to Caring for Your Elderly Parents