I have to admit even though I’m a seasoned traveler, one trip I was nervous about was flying with my mother from Oakland to Houston.
There were underlying emotions. My mother, at 87, was picking up and saying goodbye to her home of many years. She was relocating to be closer to my sister who lives in Houston. Though she is independent, it’s that time of life when she needs someone nearby. I was in charge of getting our family’s crown jewel safely to Texas. This would be our first flight together in decades. Mommy gets around pretty good, but airports can be endless walking, even for me. I had alerted the airline when I made the reservation that I needed wheelchair assistance. We arrived at the airport and from the minute we stepped out of the car to the curbside check in, someone quickly came with a wheelchair. They ushered us through the airport hassle-free and to the gate.
I made one mistake though. Because the ladies’ room was so close to the gate, she got out of the wheelchair, and we walked to the bathroom. When we returned, the wheelchair was gone. Wheelchairs are hot commodities. No one in the waiting area told whoever whisked the chair away that it was in use. The last thing I wanted was for her to walk down the jetway, fearing she might fall. I asked the gate agent to help get another wheelchair. Fortunately, we were able to get one. I learned a good lesson. Guard the wheelchair. From then on it was pure pleasure. Someone met us for our connecting flight. They escorted us to get food and got mommy on board and off again once we landed. I was never so glad to get her in a car as when we got to Houston. She was safe and ready to begin the next chapter of her life.
No doubt, traveling with the most precious cargo in your life, a parent, can be a little daunting. You want no drama, whether you’re en route with a specific mission like getting from Point A to Point B for practical reasons, or you’re vacationing together. The experts weigh in with advice on how to travel well with an aging parent.
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1. Talk About These Things Before Hitting The Road
Christina Grace, who writes for the adventure family blog, Live A Wilder Life, has started bringing her aging father, who had a major stroke and is severely impaired, along on trips with her young child. She offers a few things to think about before traveling.
Manage your expectations. “We are an active family willing to get up at 6 a.m. if it means avoiding crowds and having a more enjoyable time. When I travel with my dad, I know I have to sacrifice early morning wakeups and nonstop itineraries. He needs a lot of sleep and breaks in the day to rest.” Anticipate that the pace will be slower than it would be if you were traveling without them. Be flexible.
Decide what’s important. “Have a clear intention on why you’re traveling together and what you want from it. For me, it’s to …….