According to NPR, this Memorial Day weekend and summer are estimated to see the highest amount of travelers since the recession. We are also seeing big trends in multi-generational road trips. Families are craving time away from the usual pace to reconnect and take a break from the usual rush of work and activities. For those in the sandwich generation who have children and aging parents, this can be a great time to create a space that will bridge the generations. Whether you are setting out to visit old stomping grounds or exploring a new place, here are a few tips for family caregivers to make sure they are prepared for their multigenerational adventure:
Before you Go
- Planning is everything. While you may normally have a free flowing trip, an aging adult can really depend on a routine. Try to generally plan sleeping, activities, meals, and rest periods around the same time each day.
- Be sure that you have more than enough medication for the entire trip. You may need to order extra in advance.
- Prepare an emergency list just to make sure you have pertinent information in one place. Include all medications and dosages, allergies, any diagnosis, date of birth, social security number, insurance card, and contact information for a parent’s primary physicians and care manager.
- Make sure you are aware of any food allergies or dietary needs around medications so you can prepare supplies that you’ll need to take with you.
- Be sure to pack any necessary devices and equipment such as a gait belt, compression socks, a cane or walker, etc. Even if your loved one only uses them part of the time, unusual activity such as increased walking may trigger the need for assistance equipment.
On the Road
- While you may be tempted to push it through to the next town it is important to take frequent breaks on a long road trips to allow aging adults to use the facilities. Make sure your aging loved one is not avoiding staying hydrated to reduce trips to the bathroom. Dehydration is a major risk among older adults.
- Make sure you are regularly moving on those pit stops. Sitting for long periods of time in closed quarters can increase the risk of blood clots forming in the legs. Regularly get the family out of the car to take a short walk.
- Pack layers of clothing as temperatures can vary widely during travel. Being able to add or remove layers will help regulate body temperature to prevent getting overheated or chilled.
- If you’re headed somewhere sunny, protect skin with plenty of sunscreen and light long-sleeve clothing. Don’t forget the sunglasses and a wide-brim hat. Our skin thins as we age and it is crucial to protect it well.
- Create a playlist that includes some favorite tunes from your aging loved ones past. Make sure their songs make it into the rotation of music too.
At Your Destination
- When you get to your lodging, take time to set up designated areas for medication and orient loved ones to the new space. Be sure to remove any small rugs or tripping hazards and bring your own nightlights to illuminate stairwells, hallways, or bathrooms.
- Create a designated area that is just for your aging loved one that is a safe and quiet space for them to retreat to and recharge. With all the stimulation of the sights and family, it is important to have a sanctuary that loved ones can enter at any time.
- Let the stories roll! Whether you gather around a campfire on the beach or around a good meal, encourage everyone to participate in a story night. Simply let each person tell a story around a particular theme or storyteller’s choice. This can be a source of rich multigenerational connection. It is amazing what we don’t know about people we are close to simply because we’ve never asked. If you have a smartphone, recording these stories to preserve later can be incredibly meaningful.
- Take lots of pictures. This may be obvious, but multigenerational photos are a real treasure for families. Stage some family shots of the oldest and youngest together, all the men, and then all the women together. It’s a great opportunity to capture being all tougher.
- Go with the Flow. It is important to be adaptable to aging loved ones. You may have a particular event planned, but remain attentive to your aging loved one’s needs. They may be having a great day or a low energy day. It is important to make them feel like whatever kind of day they are having is okay and they are included in family time all the same.
- Take turns with your significant other. It can be important to switch off spending time with individual family members in a more intimate setting. Create a plan with your significant other to switch off time with children and aging adults to give each a chance to connection one-on-one.
Above all, it is important to stay safe and make memories together this summer. Happy Travels!
Published on May 21, 2014.