Reconciling Elder Care and Travel

Human beings are living longer, and at the same time we have become a more globally mobile society. Though the pandemic has slowed relocations, work-from-home options have opened up travel opportunities. What happens when a decision to move affects the care of an older family member?Whether you are caring for a parent in your home or are only peripherally involved, a move is going to disrupt your family’s routine. Good planning can mitigate that upheaval. Elder care takes different shapes in different cultures. Government services vary, too. Senior support is robust in some areas and thin in others. Some questions to ask:

  • How should I arrange for/continue care?
  • What to do in an emergency?
  • What if my parent declines into a worsened condition?
  • What’s the best way to stay informed about my parent’s health status?
  • Is he/she fit enough to make the move with us?

Along with your parent, talk directly to the doctor about their condition and potential future needs. This can help you decide on levels of care, and to determine whether it’s possible for your parent(s) to move with you.

If you do consider moving abroad with them, investigate the host country’s entry requirements. When looking for a home, consider the physical layout and space options in available accommodations.

Look into support for seniors at your destination — in physical environment, medical access, and recreational opportunities, as well as cultural norms that can affect quality of life. Check into any required equipment like oxygen tanks or medications that may need regular replenishing, and special treatments like dialysis or chemotherapy.

For a parent staying in the home country, siblings should discuss shifting responsibilities in the traveler’s absence. Talk to your parent(s) about their needs, wishes, and practicalities like paperwork. Wills, power of attorney, trusts, and health care proxies should be in place and updated if the situation warrants.

If your parent will need to change their current residential status, research and visit facilities, or line up home health care that will meet their needs. Make a list of people who will directly manage your parent’s care, and support people who will be in regular contact with her/him. Keep contact information for these people, along with doctors, lawyers, and pharmacies. Checklists and guidance are very useful in this process and are available from organizations like AARP.

Plan to take part in health professional meetings by phone. Case managers and staff can share status updates on your parent’s condition, answer your questions, and provide opportunities to share your concerns or wishes going forward.

With all the serious logistics on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to forget that a simple bouquet of flowers, plant, or their favorite edible treat delivered to the parent can bring cheer and raise spirits. Some thought and planning can ease the transition for everyone involved.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group