When a major milestone happens in your family like a graduation, new baby or wedding, it’s important to include everyone in the celebration. But, for family caregivers responsible for an elderly family member, these important family events can seem too daunting to attend, especially if travel is involved.
Don’t let age or illness stop you or your loved one from attending. Of course, making the trip (whether it’s an hour drive within the state or a journey across the continent) will no doubt be difficult and require a lot of planning, but here are five reasons it’s worth it:
Could this be your mom’s last chance to meet her great-grand child? Your dad’s last chance to see your children again? For families living far from each other, a major milestone is a good reason to get together, especially if the senior you’re caring for is deteriorating. If your doctor approves their travel, then take the opportunity to allow your own children and grandchildren, brothers or sisters, nieces or nephews the opportunity to meet them, and/or to say their good-byes and get the closure they might need.
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Don’t worry about this putting a damper on the celebration — it won’t. What better way to say goodbye than through the celebration of the joining of two families in marriage, the precious opportunity to take a picture of your parent with a new great grand-baby, or sharing in the pride of a new graduate? There are sure to be tears at all of these events already!
For many caregivers an invitation to a major family milestone brings up feelings of guilt. Guilt for not being able to attend, guilt for leaving the family member you’re caring for behind, or guilt for attending and requiring extra accommodations as a result of your presence. When you look at it this way, a caregiver can feel guilty whether they go, or don’t. Ultimately, these feelings of guilt are understandable and normal for many family caregivers, but certainly not necessary.
If you’re carrying the burden of caregiver guilt talk to a counselor, a fellow caregiver, a family member or friend. They’ll help you work through these emotions so you can feel good about the decision you’ve made, whatever it is.
In fact, A Place for Mom’s Sarah Stevenson reported that “caregivers of the elderly are also at risk for social isolation.” So, when you get an invitation, if you can go, you definitely should. Attending can do wonders for you and the senior you care for.
According to the Caregiver Action Network, “20% of employed female caregivers over 50 years old report symptoms of depression compared to 8% of their non-caregiving peers,” and studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that approximately 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression every year.
Planning a trip gives you both something to look forward to, and is a great way (albeit temporary) to fight depression. A recent survey found that travel is the number one mood booster for Americans, “with vacations and longer trips fulfilling that much-needed sweet spot, whether it’s to spend time with family and friends or to just get away and recuperate,” LifeHack reports.
With high numbers of caregivers and seniors experiencing depression, the mood boosting benefits of travel makes the stress of traveling with a frail, elderly senior worth consideration.
If the senior family member you’re caring for is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, then consider traveling to visit family now, while they still can. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “in the early stages of dementia, a person may still enjoy traveling,” but “as the disease progresses, travel may become too overwhelming.” In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association warns that “there may come a time when traveling is too disorienting or stressful for the person with dementia.”
So, if your elderly family member or parent is still able to travel, take the opportunity now, while it presents itself. The time and effort you spend planning the trip and coordinating all their needs will be worth it, and when you look back on the journey you’ll be glad you went.
Have you traveled with your senior loved one? We’d love to hear about your latest adventures in the comments below.