Senior Beat: Pack for safety and fun on the road
By Carol Higgins Taylor
Special to The Weekly
The trees are budding and the flowers are blooming. While the weather has been pretty wet this spring, summer will soon be here and for many that means hitting the road. I have elder friends and family who are already planning day trips and talking about heading to camp. I come from a long line of people who like to “run the roads.”
While travel is an enjoyable experience for many seniors, nothing can ruin the fun like a medical emergency.
Emergency department doctors often see seniors who are away from home and in need of medical care because of falls, medication interactions or missed medications due to a change in routine or a lapse in memory.
Here are some tips to think about as you plan your next trip.
–Pack favorite snacks because a long drive without potato chips is, well, just a long drive.
–Make sure your medications filled and that you have enough to cover the length of your stay, as well as enough for few days after you return home. Keep essential medications and medical equipment with you, rather than in your checked luggage, if traveling by plane or bus.
–Wear an ID bracelet for any special medical conditions, and carry this information in your wallet or purse, as well. If you don’t have a File of Life, get one and take it with you. Eastern Area Agency on Aging may have some.
–Make your emergency contact easy for emergency personnel to find in your cell phone by putting “ICE” in front of the contact’s name. They are increasingly aware that the letters stand for “In Case of Emergency.”
–If possible, take an extra pair of eyeglasses, especially if you need them to drive or read. There are many places that make glasses at very reasonable rates. Take a copy of the prescription too. It is unlikely that you will need to have new glasses made but better to be prepared.
–Pace yourself when planning activities. It is normal to want to do everything, but be careful and listen to your body.
–Leave friends and family a copy of your travel itinerary.
–Identify emergency medical facilities in the areas where you will be traveling.
–Don’t stop taking your medications as prescribed, even if your daily routine is different. A time change can make medications tricky so talk with your healthcare provider about how to adjust your scheduled doses.
–Walk around and stretch your legs every 20 minutes or so when seated for long periods. This encourages blood circulation, and helps prevent blood clots. It can be harder when driving because no one wants to stop that often. Well, unless you are like my best friend, Debbie, and me. Years ago, it took us six hours to get to Boston because we stopped so much.
–Ask your doctor for seated stretching exercises, such as circling your ankles and pumping your feet. And don’t cross your legs as it restricts circulation.
–Stay hydrated by drinking more water. Seniors are at high risk for dehydration. If plain water is difficult for you to choke down try seltzer water. It’s delicious, there are a lot of flavors and some fizz to make it exciting. (My favorite is the newly re-released toasted coconut from Polar.)
–Inform your tour guide about any chronic medical conditions.
–And you should never leave home without a fully stocked first-aid kit in the car. Important items to include are: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin tablets, antihistamine, anti-nausea/motion sickness medication, bandages of assorted sizes, bandage closures, safety pins, triangle bandage, elastic wraps, gauze and adhesive tape, sharp scissors with rounded tips, antiseptic swipes, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and disposable, instant-activating cold packs. Safety first, people.
It is also a good idea to take a CPR course if possible before your trip. You never know
when you might need it. By the way, don’t forget to have fun.
Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in Bangor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.