What do I need to think about when taking an elderly relative on holiday?
Deciding to take an elderly relative on holiday may sound daunting. Their level of mobility and their care requirements will pose limitations on where you can go and what type of holiday you can have. But with the right preparation and the right attitude, taking an elderly family member on holiday can be a rewarding experience for both of you. It can be an opportunity re-affirm your relationship, and if you have children, holidaying with three generations can be one to remember for everyone.
You will have to plan and make careful decisions. But the more research and thought you put into booking your holiday, the more you’ll enjoy the benefits when you arrive.
Your considerations will have to be tailored to your relative’s unique requirements, but the following advice will help you decide where to go and how to make the best of your holiday.
Pick the right destination
Your first question will be what type of holiday to book. You’ll want a holiday and a destination that appeals to you, but which is also suitable for your elderly relative. Skiing, safaris, camping, and walking and adventure holidays may not be on the cards, but city breaks and even beach holidays may be more suitable options. Discuss with your relative what they’d enjoy and feel comfortable with. Consider:
- Are there activities and tourist sites that appeal to them?
- How suitable are these sites and activities for an older tourist?
- If you’re planning a beach holiday, how far away are the beaches and are they easily accessible? A large car park with flat paths is likely to be preferable to a daily climb up and down steeper paths.
- If you’re planning a city trip, how easy is to travel around the city? A medieval European town may be picturesque, but cobbled streets could be a challenge.
- Research the typical weather for that time of year to make sure it’s suitable. You might be dying to bake under a hot summer sun, but high temperatures can be dangerous for the elderly, and you may want to avoid the crowds of the hotter destinations during the summer months.
Find suitable accommodation
Just as important as the destination is the type of accommodation you’ll be staying in. Whether this is a hotel, a cottage, or a room in a private residence, make a list of the features you want to have, and issues to avoid, based on your relative’s condition and requirements. Consider the following:
- Will you need ground floor accommodation?
- Are there ramps for easy access, or a lift to reach higher floors?
- Is there a bathroom with hand rails and a walk-in shower?
- What is the terrain like around your accommodation? Is it flat and well paved, or are there hills and lose ground?
Getting there and getting around
Part of your decision on where to go and what type of holiday you’ll have will be transport. You’ll need to make sure you can all get to your planned destination in comfort. Think carefully about:
- If you are flying, make sure the duration of the flight isn’t too long for your relative.
- Daytime flights may be more suitable than early-morning or late-night flights.
- If they need assistance at the airport, such as with travelling around the airport, make sure you explain what is required to your airline, and give them at least 48 hours’ notice.
- Make sure transport from the airport to your destination is suitable. Long travel times, and some forms of transport, such as small boats, may not be appropriate.
- If your trip involves a long drive, plan for frequent stops, and maybe even stop overnight at a suitable hotel or B&B to break up the travel time.
If you’re also considering travelling around when you reach your destination, for instance to go on trips, you’ll also need to evaluate the transport available to you. Can you get around without too much walking? How good is the public transport? You may consider hiring your own car to keep travel as simple and stress-free as possible.
Before booking the holiday, discuss what activities your elderly relative would enjoy.
They may be happy to spend some time relaxing on a hot beach, but strong sun and high temperatures won’t be suitable for long. Make sure there are interesting activities such as museum visits and other tourist sites. Remember to:
- Do your research beforehand to find out whether tourist sites have suitable access and facilities for your relative.
- Bring food and water with you, in case none is available at the site.
- Don’t try to do too much. You may be eager to cram as many activities into your holiday as possible, but you’ll have to bear in mind that your relative may not have the energy to keep up with you. Plan excursions, but also plan rest days either side of them.
Other things to consider
- If your elderly relative takes regular medication, make sure you bring proof of their prescriptions or a letter from their doctor, particularly when flying.
- Ensure that vital medication is taken with you in your hand luggage, but in a container of no more than 100 ml.
- Find out where the nearest doctor, pharmacy, and hospital is to your accommodation in case of emergencies.
Where to do your research?
All of the above will require research, but the more time you spend evaluating your options before you book, the greater the chances you’ll have of a successful and rewarding holiday. You can try the following sources to help with your planning:
- Holiday companies. In addition to brochures and online information, many have contact details for staff who can help answer your questions.
- Tourism information websites and forums such as TripAdvisor. These sites often have detailed information on hotels, activities and tourist sites, and allow you to ask questions that are answered by people who have been there before you. Many hotels and tourist activities also have their own websites with details on facilities and accessibility.
- The airline you are flying with. Your airline can help with facilities at both airports and can arrange for additional assistance (be sure to give them at least 48-hours’ notice of any requirements).
- The hotel you’re staying in. Your hotel can advise on accessibility and facilities, and can be a good source of information for local sites and activities.
- Friends and family. You may know people who have taken their own elderly parents on holiday, and they may have vital information and tips on matters you’ve not already considered.