Tips that make traveling a long distance with an older relative

I recently traveled to Florida with an older relative who had to fly from Ohio to Florida who has very limited mobility and needed medication four times a day. That is a lot of responsibility, especially when you are trying to enjoy a wedding weekend.

Here are tips I learned the hard way that I want to share:
  • Airlines have disability departments. Call them a few weeks before your flight and tell them you are traveling with an elderly person with limited mobility. If the person is very limited in their walking there is a special wheelchair that can take them to their seat. You will get to pre-board with that person and also be the last one off. The staff on the airline I flew with was wonderful.
  • Get a handicapped room at the hotel. These rooms are equipped for a wheelchair from the bathroom with handicapped fixtures to a lower clothes rack in the closet. They are close to the elevator and do not cost any more.
  • If you can, get an adjoining room. The hotel I was at did not have adjoining rooms. My relative chose to double lock her door, so the extra key we had was useless. She is hard of hearing and could not hear us banging on the door to give her morning medicine. The hotel maintenance was on their way with a special key to open the door when she opened it.
  • Use a reminder on your phone to give medicines. With all of the festivities going on it was hard to remember to administer meds four times a day.
  • If you rent a car, remember to take a handicap placard with you from home. It makes life much easier.
  • Did you know most handicapped bathroom stalls are the ones furthest from the entrance? Go to the bathroom before you leave your house or hotel. It is much easier than negotiating a line of ten people and having to wait for the one handicap stall that a non-handicap person is using. Wheelchairs don’t fit well in bathrooms at the airport. If possible, try a family restroom in the airport, which is a large private bathroom. Since my relative couldn’t lock the door in the family restroom, and didn’t want me in there with her, I had to stand guard to prevent someone from opening the door.
  • If you are going to a wedding or other party, find someone to take your relative back to the hotel if you want to, or have to stay until the end. I was burning up the dance floor and other people were ready to leave who were happy to take my relative but I needed to ask.
  • Ask for help from other family members. Nieces and nephews, adult grandchildren and others may be happy to entertain your older relative while you go to the pool or exercise room. This is supposed to be a relaxing trip, but it will involve work. Find a few moments to enjoy yourself.