For the elderly, the prospect of any travel that is further away than a few minutes has usually lost most of its pizzazz and excitement. Air travel has its own additional challenges. For one thing, it is typically longer than the amount of time a person would spend traveling in a vehicle and for another, the different air pressure and crowded seating can get to anyone of any age. Multiply the effects of those things for the elderly person, who may be experiencing their own health issues and discomforts even before boarding an airliner.
Nevertheless, there are times that they may need to, or want to, travel by air. For example, my grandmother hated air travel towards the end of her life, but she loved attending the family reunions that were held three thousand miles away from us, so she would suffer through the hours of discomfort to make her way across the country once a year. We did everything that we possibly could to make the trip as comfortable as possible for her. The following are some of the things that we did for her and you may want to try for the older loved one in your life.
One of the medical problems that my grandmother had was that she was a diabetic. Many people develop this condition as they age and it is crucial that it is controlled well to avoid diabetic shock or coma. Pack some hard candies in your bag and purchase a couple of juices at the airport after you get through security, as you won’t be able to get them through security checkpoints due to new regulations. Be certain that you have any supplies such as a glucose testing kit and insulin, if these are items that they need regularly. Diabetics may also experience problems with swelling, especially their feet. Purchase a couple of pairs of stockings that are made specifically for diabetics to provide as much foot and lower leg support as possible. These may be good even for those not dealing with this condition. Bring along slippers so that they need not be in shoes that may get tight over time.
Remember that elderly people’s inner thermostats may not work as efficiently as they once did, so they will appreciate a lap blanket and having a sweater on. Airliners can get rather chilly and produce achy bones and joints in the elderly, especially those dealing with arthritis. You may even want to consider picking up a couple of Thermacare heat patches that will warm areas that cause pain in the cold.
The seats on jets aren’t the ultimate in comfort, but first class seating offers a bit more room and seat quality. If possible, purchase seating in this section. You may be able to upgrade your tickets at the gate, if there are available seats in first class, for very little additional charges. Pack a pillow for neck support and low back support to prevent stiffness from being in an uncomfortable position for hours.
Any medications that the elderly person needs should be packed in the carry-on, with plenty to spare. You don’t want to get seperated from your checked luggage without essential medications. There are certain regulations regarding the packing of medical items that are clearly explained on the TSA website. Be sure and check there to make certain there will be no problem getting everything through security. The website address is www.tsa.gov.
If they experience episodes of incontinence, be prepared for that. It is embarrassing for them if they get up with a puddle under them. The flight crew never really appreciates it, either. If this is an issue, bring a waterproof pad to set underneath them and protect the seat. If the problem is severe enough to warrant it, have the Depends on them and bring extra ones, along with wipes for any necessary cleanup.
The comfort of your elderly co-passenger should be a priority; they’ve probably lived a long time giving to and caring for others. Now that it’s their time to need a hand, be there to do all that you can for them. Pack well, put their comfort and needs first, and you will hopefully arrive at your destination with a happy and healthy partner.