Family Caregivers – Yes You Can Take a Vacation!

iStock_000023479361SmallEveryone yearns for time to relax and refresh during the summer months – especially sun-starved New Englanders. But if you’re a family caregiver, a ‘carefree’ vacation may be hard to come by.

–      If you leave town, who will take your place?

–      If you bring your loved one with you, will your vacation venue be equipped for their special needs?

There’s a lot to think about. But with good planning, you can take a breather from caregiving and give yourself a well-deserved break.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

Leaving your loved one in someone else’s care

In an earlier post, we told you about 3 Respite Programs So You Can Take a Break. These programs, offered by the Connecticut Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut Area Agencies on Aging and the National Family Caregiver Support Program offer daytime or overnight services like –

  • Adult day care
  • Adult foster care
  • Home health aide
  • Homemaker/companion
  • Skilled nursing
  • Self-directed care
  • Cognitive training
  • Short-term nursing home placement

Depending on the program, respite services are available for caregivers caring for older adults, adults with dementia or anyone with disabilities. Even grandparents or other relatives caring for children under the age of 18 can get help.

Traveling with a loved one

If you’re planning to take a vacation with your loved one, here are some tips to make your time away more enjoyable for all.

 Call ahead

If you will be flying to your destination, be sure to call ahead and let the airlines know about your accessibility needs. This goes for your hotel accommodations. You want to know ahead of time that your room will be appropriate for your loved ones needs. If you plan to rent a car, be sure to reserve one that is large enough, as you may be bringing bulky items like a wheelchair or walker.

Set a Realistic Pace

Having realistic expectations is key. For some planned activities, you may want to check with your physician ahead of time and get medical clearances. Building in rest breaks and downtime will help your loved one manage their energy level and enjoy the activities they can participate in. Cruise vacations and resorts are excellent options, offering a wide range of recreation options for all family members.

Do Your Research

You don’t want to find out when you get to your vacation venue that the nearest medical facility, pharmacy or grocery store is 50 miles away. Be sure to do your research so you know what to expect.

Extra Prescriptions and Supplies

Be sure to bring backup medical or personal care supplies such as incontinence supplies or support stockings – things that may not be available at your destination. If you are flying, keep in mind that airlines may have regulations regarding medications. It’s a good idea to keep them in their original container, and call ahead to find out if you need any special certifications to carry your loved ones medications on board. Your physician can let you know if any medications are prone to interactions with the sun or certain foods.

Traveling with a ready supply of snacks and water is an excellent idea for all travelers!

Caregiving Support

You may be the primary caregiver, but if possible, plan to have others pitch in so you can be off-duty during your vacation. Here are some options:

–      Bring a travel aide with you

–      Hire a caregiver when you get there

–      Look into adult day care near your vacation venue

–      Ask other family members to share responsibilities

Changes and unfamiliar situations can be stressful for your loved one. Maintaining normal routines as much as possible and bringing familiar objects will help orient your loved one to the new environment.

Life can be complicated for family caregivers even on the best of days. Planning a vacation may take some work, but the well-earned rest and refreshment you enjoy will be worth the extra effort.

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