Recently, a friend was venting because his elderly father wants to take a trip to Italy. My friend thought the trip would be a waste of money as his father currently lives in an Assisted Living Facility and suffers from mild memory issues and needs a walker to get around. I think he was stressed the most by the fact his father didn’t want him to come along as he knew his son would not be able to take the time off from work. He insisted his father was not physically capable of making such a trip and he would jeopardize his health and waste money needed for his future. I was probably not the best sounding board as I like to travel and while I plan carefully for retirement days, I also know that I may never see those days!
We all have a “bucket list” and I’m guessing this trip to Italy is probably one of the top items on his father’s list. We generally do not grow younger and healthier so you have to consider at what point some of the items on your bucket list will never be fulfilled! You also have to consider if the items on your list can reasonably be fulfilled financially or practically. I spend a great deal of time writing about finding the right senior facility to provide our elderly parents’ with a comfortable, safe and healthy retirement as that is a passion of mine. However, I am also passionate about making sure our elderly are happy and continue to enjoy life to its fullest—so let’s discuss traveling abroad!
Considerations for Elder Travel
- If you follow my blog, you know the very first consideration is the health of the elder parent. Discuss the potential travel plans with your parent’s physician and make sure they are healthy enough to travel. Don’t be concerned about all the details at this point as it may be a moot point if the doctor believes your parent is not healthy enough to travel.
- Assuming your parent is healthy enough for the travel, decide how much your parent can comfortably spend without jeopardizing their retirement. This is the tough part as the budget will determine how far they can travel and how long they can be gone. The budget should be set before you look at brochures, cruises, airfares etc. and it should be determined solely on the ability to continue living a comfortable life without the funds. Once you set the “maximum” budget, then you can begin to see how far and long your parent can travel.
- Now that you have a budget, check with a professional travel planner to help you design a trip for your parent’s special needs. Our population is growing older and travel destinations realize that and have special packages for the elderly or physically impaired. A professional can help you locate the perfect “package” for your parent. There are also many “senior” tours that specialize in helping the elderly travel and some provide special assistants to accompany the group. If you are not going to be able to travel with your parent, make sure they go in a group—especially if they have any memory issues. Your travel planner can also recommend travel companions that specialize in traveling with the elderly with physical and memory challenges. All these items cost money and thus the need for the budget!
- Once you have narrowed down the list of destinations your parent can afford, it’s time to choose. I’m not just referring to choosing between different destinations, I’m also referring to choosing to travel or stay home! Don’t be surprised if the budget and the special assistance requirements cause your parent to give pause and change their mind! Your parent may have dreams of spending several weeks abroad leisurely touring where as the budget and special needs may limit that trip to one week—of which two days are spent in the air. You need to give them a few days to think this through before writing the check which will most likely be nonrefundable. I don’t suggest you try to influence them to stay or go as it needs to be their decision.
After your parent has chosen a trip, you need to work closely with the travel planner to make sure you have everything your parent needs. The more involved you are in this step, the more at ease you will be and your parent will be better prepared. If possible, try to arrange a meeting of some of the group members or special travel companions if they are required. At this juncture, you need to embrace the fact your parent is making the trip and make it as pleasurable and exciting for them as possible. You may have the opportunity to travel a lot in your lifetime, but this may be your parent’s last big trip. Also, if the budget doesn’t allow for your parent to make that “bucket list” trip, then try and improvise to help them realize part of the dream. For instance, how about a stay in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas? Alright, it’s not Venice, but it is a trip and they do have Gondola rides! As for my friend, his father is making a trip to Italy in June and I’m not sure which of the two are more nervous. I may have a different blog for you after he returns so stay tuned!
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