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Travel tips when your loved one is disabled

It’s difficult to know what to anticipate when traveling with a family member who has trouble getting around. Here are tips from experienced, disabled travelers to reduce your road-trip stress this summer.

If your travel includes hotel lodging:

  • Talk directly with the hotel. Many hotel chains have a centralized reservation system. Get a direct, on-site number instead. Then ask to speak with the head of housekeeping or engineering. With their intimate knowledge of the building, you can ask them to describe the disability features: How wide are the doorways? Does the bathroom have grab bars? And don’t forget to ask about access to the hotel from the street!
  • Reserve the room. Confirm that you are guaranteed an “accessible” room. Reconfirm a few days in advance of your arrival. If your room is not available or not accessible, ask to speak with the manager. It is the hotel’s responsibility to find you suitable alternate lodgings.

You might also consider bringing these items. You’ll find them sold online or at medical supply stores.

  • A folding ramp. An easy way to eliminate a short flight of stairs when visiting relatives or stores not equipped to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • Safety items for the bathroom. Consider a lightweight toilet seat extender. (Sitting higher up on the “throne” reduces the chance of falling when getting on or off the toilet.) For bathing, look for a suction-based grab bar or folding shower bench and slip-on shower hose. Add nightlights to improve visibility after dark.
  • Chair comfort. Bring a lap blanket and special pillows if your family member will be spending a lot of time sitting. Or a small fan to help with cooling. A swivel seat cushion may help a lot with getting in/out of the car.

To help your loved one join in excursions, consider a transport wheelchair. These lightweight wheelchairs have smaller wheels and can preserve your family member’s energy. All transport chairs fold, but some are made specifically for travel and can pack easily in a small bag.

Unsure whether travel is wise?
It’s natural to feel cautious. But sometimes the window of health is such that this may be a last opportunity to visit others. As the Northern Virginia expert in aging well, we at Senior Care Management Services help our clients prepare for trips and marshal resources so they can give their family members a truly precious memory. Call us at 703-329-0900.

Accessible National Parks

If the person you care for has trouble getting around, you can still go on a family vacation. Many of our national parks have specific accessibility programs. Our parks are our treasures, and park staff are working to ensure that all Americans have access.

To find a park with accessibility services, go to the National Park Service website. Select a park of interest. Under the “Plan Your Visit” menu, go to the page for Accessibility.

Here are some of the features you might find:

  • Accessible trails. These trails have a firm and stable surface. In fact, some are wood boardwalks. All are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Not all of them are flat. Look for information about slope to make decisions about difficulty.
  • Accessible camping. A number of national parks offer accessible campsites. These campgrounds may have surfaces that are more groomed and stable. And they also have restrooms with wheelchair access.
  • Accessible opportunities. Some parks offer touchable exhibits for the visually impaired. Others have hearing systems that help amplify the sound of the ranger’s voice on a tour. Some parks have cabins that are built to accommodate wheelchairs.


America the Beautiful Passes

With an Access Pass, the National Parks Service waives entrance fees for persons with permanent disabilities. The pass covers more than 2000 national parks and national wildlife refuges. To get the pass, applicants must mail in documents to prove their disability. They also need to prove citizenship or residency. A limited number of parks can issue the pass on site.

An Access Pass covers the admission price for a single, noncommercial vehicle. Or, admission for the disabled individual and up to three others for parks that charge a per-person fee. Plus, the pass may provide discounts beyond the entrance fee. For instance, there may be discounts on extra amenities, such as camping, swimming, and boat fees.

Thinking of a family vacation?
At Senior Care Management Services we have observed that a special family trip builds priceless memories. Don’t let a disability quash the thought! As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify needed support services and find an outing that matches well with your loved one’s abilities. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.

Is a New Medicare Card in the Mailbox?

Medicare has started sending out new cards to all its members. The mailings will take place in waves. The person you care for may not receive theirs until later in the year. You don’t need to do anything. The new card will arrive automatically. (The only exception to this is people who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Those cards will remain the same, so no mailing expected.)

Medicare benefits have NOT changed!
The program your loved one is enrolled in stays the same. Just the card is changing.

Why change the card?
Primarily, it’s for security reasons. When Medicare first started, it made sense to use Social Security numbers as the identifying number for beneficiaries. That was before the age of identity theft.

The Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI).
Medicare is giving everyone new numbers. There will be no rhyme or reason or hidden meaning to the combination of letters and numbers assigned. Nothing to reveal information about the cardholder.

Destroy the old card securely.
Shredding or burning the card is best. It does have your relative’s Social Security number. You don’t want that getting into the wrong hands!

Watch out for scammers.
Sadly, there are always those who prey on elders during a change like this. Be aware that Medicare will telephone only if the beneficiary has phoned in and left a message requesting a call back. The insurance company for Part D (drugs) or Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) may call. But they will not ask for the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. They will already know it. If someone calls and requests verification of the number, hang up immediately. Then call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can sign up for notifications about the new card at medicare.gov/newcard/.

Confused about Medicare?
We can help. At Senior Care Management Services we understand that the health care system can be very intimidating. As the Northern Virginia expert in family caregiving, we’ve got your back. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.