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.

Web Resources When Caring for an Older Adult

In our internet age, locating help and information as a caregiver is often just a few clicks away. Below are some useful web resources to research, especially if you are looking for guidance in caring for an older adult.

AARP   Website: www.aarp.org

Or, to go directly to specific caregiving resources.

Eldercare Locator  Website:  www.eldercare.gov

The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, is a national site that can connect you to services for older adults and their families.

Mayo Clinic   Website: www.mayoclinic.com

Use this site to research health issues.  This site has up-to-date information in multiple diseases and categories.

The Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM)   Website: www.aginglifecare.org

Aging Life Care specialists (formerly known as Geriatric Care Managers (GCMs) are health care professionals, most often social workers or nurses, who assist families in dealing with the problems and challenges associated with caring for the elderly.  In addition to showing the many ways an aging life care specialist can help families facing long-term care decisions, the site also provides a database to search for an aging life care specialist in your location.

Web MD   Website: www.webmd.com

WebMD provides valuable health information, tools for managing your health, and support for those who seek information.

National Council on Seniors Drug & Alcohol Rehab – Website: RehabNet.com

A site dedicated to helping older adults with this “quiet epidemic” of drug and alcohol addiction.

Medicare – Website: www.medicare.gov

Everything you need to know about Medicare.

This article was updated in December 2017.

Northern Virginia Senior and Caregiver Resource

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating because the resource can be so valuable. When you have questions about resources for an elder, and no one to answer them, a good way to help your search is with the local Aging and Adult Services office in your county. They know the resources and criteria and are a great place to start when looking for options, public or private. Each county in Northern Virginia has such an office, and it is worth your while to keep their number. Here they are:

City of Alexandria

Senior Services of Alexandria


Arlington County

Aging and Disability Services


Fairfax County

Fairfax County Services for Older Adults


Falls Church City

Adult and Aging Services


or contact

Fairfax County Services for Older Adults


Loudoun County

Aging Programs and Services


Prince William County

Prince William County Area Agency on Aging


A Better Option for Senior Drivers

When an older driver reaches the time that he needs to stop doing so, perhaps what would make the process easier is having a good option for getting around. After all, in the U.S., driving a car is a mode of independence, and giving that up is a huge step. But there are options in communities around the U.S. We just need a way to find them.

Katherine Freund has a way. She founded the Independent Transportation Network (ITN), to do just that. The service is currently available in 27 cities, and provides senior riders an affordable transportation option. No money changes hands in the vehicle. Instead, riders use ride credits to pay for their trips. In some cases, the adult children of the seniors are earning the credits for their parent by being a volunteer driver for someone else. Another plus of this service over many other transportation options are that drivers provide senior riders “arm-through-arm service, and door-through-door service, as well as help with packages. And it is not just for medical appointments. Whether it be church, groceries, social activities or other kinds of fun, it’s all part of the service. Here is the link to ITNAmerica.

Graphic courtesy of Designed by Freepik.

Tips for Working with Caregiving Aides

David Troxel, the well-known author of the “Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care,” and an Alzheimer’s caregiver himself, tells a story of how he taught his mother’s caregiving aides how to prepare afternoon tea.

This article first appeared at BrightFocus.org and can be read in its entirety here.

Talking with a Senior About Driving – Call in the Supports

At this time of year, with holidays and family gatherings, we often notice things in an elder’s daily life that we may not have noticed before.  Perhaps you are visiting and notice dents or scratches on the car your parent drives.   Or they’ve had a recent medical event and you wonder if the driving  should stop.  There are numerous ways to approach the conversation, and one that I noticed about a year ago on a popular TV show – Blue Bloods, was especially good.  The episode – “Greener Grass” – included a storyline about this subject.  Henry, the patriarch of the family, had some dents and scratches on his car and his son, Frank (played by Tom Selleck), brought it up.  He was obviously uncomfortable as he did this, and it wasn’t long before the conversation erupted into a shouting match.  There was no resolution that day, and after much worrying, Frank brought his daughter into the discussion with Grandpa.  They all sat down again and with Erin’s help this time, were able to get through the discussion.  It was a touching scene, and one that is worth looking up for some ideas about discussing this subject.  The episode is “Greener Grass,” which is from Season 3, Episode 6 of Blue Bloods on CBS.