Caring for a friend or a loved one while taking a trip doesn’t have to be painful. Follow these tips to ensure a successful and safe journey.

Planning a trip with someone for whom you are providing care can be a logistical nightmare. But while your loved one may suffer from physical or mental limitations, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a trip out of the home. The key to smoothing the journey is preparation. As a caregiver, you should be aware of some key steps you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for the entire group.

Before departing on your trip, have this information readily available:

  • Doctors names and contact information
  • A list of all medications, dosages and any drug allergies
  • Health insurance information/card
  • List of local hospitals in the area to which you are traveling
  • Living wills or health decision-making paperwork

If you plan to stay at a hotel, call ahead and inform the staff of any special needs during your stay, such as a ground-floor room, one close to the elevators or an adaptive room designed to aid a person with disabilities.

Before traveling by plane, alert the airline of any specific necessities your loved one may require, such as special seating or available oxygen. A wheelchair may also be recommended when walking long distances in airports. If the individual is incontinent, try and reserve your seats close to the bathroom. If this is not possible, pack extra supplies such as disposable products and pads for the seat.

When caring for someone with impaired mental function, try and visit familiar places, as oftentimes confusion will increase when visiting a strange environment. If your loved one displays any type of wandering behavior, it may increase in an unfamiliar setting. Travel at the time of day that is best for the individual you are providing care. For instance, if they have periods of more clarity in the morning, plan to travel during that time. Also attempt to limit activities during the day to one or two events so your loved one doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Traveling with someone that has even minor physical limitations or impairments can be a challenge. Always have a readily accessible bag of supplies with the following items:

  • An extra change of clothes.
  • Medications. Remember, some medications need refrigeration, so bring a small cooler. Its a good idea to bring extra amounts of the medication in the event your trip is delayed or you simply decide to stay longer.
  • Water and snacks. Don’t rely on being able to stop somewhere to obtain.
  • Supplies to change the individual if they are incontinent, many of these items are sold in sample or small packs for traveling. Disposable wipes/washcloths are also a great solution.

If possible, learn where the bathrooms are along your driving route, as this will alleviate a lot of stress and allow you to plan your bathroom breaks. Smartphone applications are available that will provide this information. It’s also important to let someone in your family or a close friend know your route and where you will be each day. Planning ahead and factoring in various details is the most important step you can take.

Michele Mongillo, RN, MSN, is a clinical director who has over 20 years of nursing experience in a variety of settings including acute care, head/spinal cord injury rehabilitation and long-term care.