The holidays are a time for families who may be spread across the country to gather and celebrate. Or maybe it’s a time to slip away and enjoy a vacation. Whatever your holiday plans are, air travel with your elderly parent or loved one can pose a challenge.
Today, Austin Kiliham from Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones provides 10 tips to help you plan ahead and make your trip easier more comfortable, and most importantly safe for both of you.
Talk to the doctor.
Talk to your loved one’s doctor to let him/her know that you are planning to fly in the near future. Ask if a check-up is advised to make sure your loved one is healthy enough to travel.
Plan for low stress.
Plan your flight itinerary to be as low impact as possible. Multiple layovers mean more stress, so consider direct flights whenever possible.
Make any special requests when making your reservations.
Ask about expedited boarding and whether you need proof of medical conditions to receive this service. Consider your seating options as well. Aisle seating may be preferable, as it is easier to maneuver. Or you may want to reserve Even More Space for extra legroom.
Also, this is the time to request a wheelchair; you want to be sure the airline has one on hand upon your arrival at the airport. Be sure to ask for one to be ready at your final destination as well. If you’ve forgotten to ask before you reach the airport, however, don’t worry; you can ask for one when you reach the check-in counter.
Even if your loved one doesn’t usually use a wheelchair, they can be helpful when you have to navigate long airport corridors, or when you’re in a rush and carrying baggage. Some airports also provide electric carts to help passengers get to their gates.
[JetBlue has a dedicated team to help support customers with special assistance. Be sure to check the Special Needs section on jetblue.com for more information]
Pack any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you may need in a carry-on bag instead of putting it in your checked luggage. That way you can keep track of it yourself, making sure that it’s easily accessible during the flight and when you land. Carry pills in their original prescription bottles, and make sure you have the contact information for your loved one’s doctors.
Tell officials in the security lines about any medical equipment, such as pacemakers, hearing aids, or metal surgical implants, which might require your loved one to go through alternative security checkpoints.
Wear loose clothing.
Unconstricting clothes make travel more comfortable and encourage blood circulation while on long flights. Also, slip-on shoes are suggested.
Drink plenty of fluids.
This is the number-one airplane travel tip from doctors. The low humidity on airplanes can easily lead to dehydration, and the best way to combat that is not only drinking plenty of water while you’re in the air but before and after the flight as well. You may want to steer clear of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which are diuretics and can further dehydrate you.
Staying hydrated wards off jet lag and helps your immune system, keeping the mucus membranes in your nose and throat moist and better equipped to fight germs. Carry an empty water bottle with you and fill it after you’ve passed through security, or once you’re through security buy a large bottle of water to take with you on the plane.
A supply of snacks is a quick hunger fix and ensures that there is something to eat when it’s time for your loved one to take his or her medication.
[JetBlue offers free snacks and drinks on board, but if our offerings aren't what you had in mind, feel free to bring your own]
While seated during long flights, it’s important to wiggle legs and feet often to increase blood circulation and keep joints feeling limber. Sitting for long periods of time has been associated with blood clots, especially in people with poor circulation. You can take mini exercise breaks by standing, walking in the aisle, or stretching and shaking your arms and legs. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about compression stockings, which can help with circulation. Otherwise, avoid tight stockings and socks.
After your arrival, you may wish to let other passengers exit the plane before you and your loved one disembark. Hanging back will keep you from being jostled by travelers in a rush and give flight attendants the chance to help your loved one while you gather yourself and collect your carry-on baggage.
Austin Kiliham is an author at Caring.com, The site a great place to learn about 10 preboarding secrets to staying healthy when you fly, senior care options, and long-distance caregiving.