No matter what our age, we all have travel anxieties, but being away from home for a senior citizen can be more stressful than we tend to remember. In our modern age, however, it has never been so easy for seniors to travel and with a little foresight, you or a loved one can be prepared for a national or even international destination in no time.
- See a doctor:
Before a senior plans to embark on an adventure, they should see a doctor for a pre-journey checkup. Ideally the visit should be at least one month ahead of travel, but even a last minute appointment is helpful. A doctor will help remind the patient of any vaccines required (depending on the country), medications to take depending on pre-existing conditions, and the physical limitations a senior should consider before leaving. For example, if you know you or a loved one has shortness of breath than a high-altitude destination is not ideal. Also, a doctor may be able to prescribe something for the plane if there is extreme anxiety or fear of jetlag.
This goes along with the paragraph above, but not only do you or a loved one have to keep in mind the vaccines that a foreign country might require, but make sure to keep up to date on more common vaccines as well. This includes the flu shot, measles, shingles, mumps, and tetanus booster. Some of these may seem like we’re being over-safe, but these diseases are much more common in countries outside of the United States, especially developing ones. Also, more than 50% of tetanus cases reported are in patients over the age of 65 so don’t forget the simple tetanus booster. For a list of recommended inoculations, here is the Center for Disease Control’s list of vaccinations. Importantly, the discussion of travel plans with a doctor will alert him or her if pre-existing conditions prevent the use of some vaccinations.
- Be aware of the destination’s surroundings:
This should go without saying, but obtain information about the destination before planning a trip. If the area is prone to natural disasters, seniors may want to stay away since they are more likely to fall prey to injury in intense situations such as tornados, hurricanes, or earthquakes. Be aware of the climate, is it a wet or dry one, cold or hot? Depending upon the environment some diseases or illnesses could be aggravated. For illnesses such as COPD, weather extremes of any type can trigger symptoms so it is always a good idea to keep the surroundings in mind.
- Injury Prevention:
We’re all weary of in-home injury for seniors, but we tend to forget that no matter what the age group, injury is the number one cause of preventable death for travellers. Just as you would in the United States, always wear a seatbelt, but even more than this, try to avoid cars after dark in developing countries. Next, avoid small or local planes from uncertain sources. Lastly, stay out of questionable areas after dark. Beyond these seemingly obvious recommendations, seniors could consider travel health insurance or call an existing healthcare company and ask about their policies abroad. Some health plans, however, like Medicare, will not pay for any services performed outside of the United States. Also, if the destination is in a remote area, seniors should also think about evacuation insurance. This type of insurance will provide transportation to a hospital in case of emergency.
Hopefully these steps relieve some tension if you or a loved one is thinking about travel because after all, travel should be enjoyable.
Note: Prescription medication should always be carried in the original bottle, along with a hardcopy of the actual prescription. Just like keys, identification, and credit cards, medicine should be stored in carry-on luggage, in case checked luggage cannot be found.