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Tips For Traveling With Older Parents

(Photo: Illustration, Gary Hovland)

Valerie Grubb loves to travel. Not only that, she loves to travel with her mom. In the past 20 years, the author of “Planes, Canes, and Automobiles: Connecting With Your Aging Parents Through Travel” has logged more than 300,000 miles with her mother, now 85.

“It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said.

You, too, can have a great trip with your mom or dad, even if they have mobility challenges. Just follow Grubb’s tips.

Watch them walk

Don’t leave home without understanding your parents’ physical capabilities. “That may actually help you decide where you want to go,” said Grubb. A parent who struggles with the stairs won’t climb the 387 steps to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. Pay your parents a visit and observe them so you can help them make the best choices for the trip.

Talk to the doc

Go with your parent for a pretrip checkup to discuss health concerns and details about medications (including generic names) your parent is taking. Carry a list of those medications and their doctors’ contact information with you at all times. “It’s rare that something happens when you’re just at the hotel,” Grubb said.

Remember that things change

If you haven’t spent extended time with your parents in a while, be aware that their dietary preferences may have changed, their memory may have diminished, or they may need more frequent rest stops. Grubb said that her mother was once “fearless” but became more wary of new places and of flying alone as she grew older. With patience and forethought, most issues can be overcome. “It changes the vacation a bit, but I can tell you it’s worth it,” Grubb said.

Travel puts you and your parent in a new adventure and allows you to deepen your relationship. Grubb, for instance, learned during one trip that her demure mom had been kicked out of high school for fighting. “You’re going to find out so much more about your parents when you’re with them,” she said. “New places trigger memories in all of us.”

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