Take Me Away: Caregiving and Travel

by Mike Collins


Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  -Mark Twain


If Mark Twain were a caregiver today, he might say travel can be a great way to recharge your batteries, relax and gain, or regain, a positive perspective on life. However, he might just as easily offer that travel for a caregiver can be a massive headache; one of those good intentions gone stressfully wrong.

If you are thinking of traveling, you need to ask a variety of questions. The first one is the simple … Why? Do you need to get away and recharge? Do you want to relive a life experience with the one you are caring for? Do you both need a change of scenery? Is the travel for professional or personal purposes such that you need as much freedom as possible?

Your answer will help you focus on one of three choices:

  • Travel as a caregiver.
  • Travel alone.
  • Don’t go.

If you are traveling as a caregiver, you’ll need to plan ahead, take your time and pack a sense of humor. Keep the trip simple. For some caregivers, a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach would be a major undertaking, and for others, a jaunt to Paris for a week might be as easy as grabbing passports and heading for RDU airport.

Apart from your available time and budget, your planning depends on how much care you need to provide. The answer determines what clearance or information you may need from a doctor, medications and equipment to take and specific travel accommodations. You may want to consider caregiving travel companions. Contact local home care companies to see if they offer travel companion services. And yes, you pay for the companion and their travel expenses, but the freedom you receive may be worth the investment.

Take your time. Those 18-hour, New York City to Miami, marathon-driving sessions are out. Older adults and Alzheimer’s patients may experience agitation and dramatic emotional swings late in the day due to Sundowners’ Syndrome. The tighter you schedule your excursion, the higher the stress level and the greater the chance something will go wrong. These are the times when patience and a sense of humor will come in handy.

If you decide to travel alone, worrying about what is going on at home is far from conducive to recharging and enjoying your trip. Family members and professional caregivers can help ensure the proper care is received in your absence. Respite care stays are also offered by some nursing and assisted living care facilities and are another option for consideration.

Traveling solo can be an extraordinarily freeing, restful experience. You may also consider group travel, which can provide an opportunity to let someone else do all the planning; all you have to do is show up and go.

After thinking it through, you may decide not to go. You may look at all the planning needed to take a trip and decide it’s just too much trouble. If you are caring for someone who looks at life through less-than-rosy glasses you may be looking at a least-worst choice instead of what is best for you by asking yourself: Do I want to listen to the complaining about not being able to go before the trip and complaining about not having gone after the trip? Or, do I want to deal with the work of planning the trip and then listening to the complaining about everything not being perfect?

I can’t answer that question for you. If your thoughts of traveling are based on your need to get away, you need to do whatever it takes to go. Remember what my mother used to tell me, “You take care of you.”

©2016 Mike Collins


Collins is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award from Today’s Caregiver Magazine. For ways to deal with the craziness of caregiving, visit www.crazycaregiver.com.