Caregivers: Planning for Travel with Peace of Mind in Mind

I returned June 17 from three weeks away — from caregiving and patient advocacy responsibilities for my parents. The travel to California and Colorado was planned last October, to mark the five year anniversary of my mom’s health crash in June 2018. For those who have read this blog and/or watched Caregiving Insights episodes, you know the ups and downs and all-arounds the journey has been. (If you haven’t, I invite you to read my earliest blog posts Caregiving: A Journey Like No Other, Beginning of the Journey, and Kidneys and Heart and Lungs, Oh My! for a sense of the journey.)

While I traveled a bunch in 2022, this was truly the first appreciable amount of time I’ve had to myself since 2017. To say it was needed is an understatement! Seeing friends in California and meeting new ones on the trails of Telluride, Colorado, was without a doubt the recharge and reset I hope every #caregiver can experience on a regular basis — however “regular” is defined.

Caregivers experience a set of circumstances and situations that are unlike other professions. Yes, caregiving is a profession, whether it’s provided by a family member (unpaid) for a loved one or by a hired home health aide. Each comes along with lots of stress and exhaustion, unique to the dynamics of the situations in which they are caregiving.

What is in common are the benefits of a healthy step back and ideally to get away…truly away! Whether that’s a drive to another town, sitting at a park for a few hours, or if fortunate a few weeks across the country, it’s helpful!

I’m grateful the situation has been relatively stable recently with my parents, so I was able to travel for a few weeks. Not everyone is so fortunate for a myriad of reasons. If it’s possible, to be away so long certainly takes planning and all caregivers benefit from starting that process many months in advance. There’s a long list of considerations and things to setup before getting on the plane, in the car or RV, or whatever mode of travel — for practical reasons and peace of mind.

  • Pick your travel dates well in advance, to provide enough time to plan.
  • Assess which healthcare appointments (docs, labs, etc.) need to be before travel and which can wait, then schedule accordingly.
  • Identify friends, family and/or healthcare providers you would like to include on your fill-in emergency team for coverage should anything happen. Provide them all important info about your loved one’s healthcare situation, contacts, etc.
    • Specifically, identify an emergency contact that is called first and provide those details of your loved one’s healthcare situations, including as detailed a history as you can provide. This helps tremendously if something happens and your not available by phone, so your emergency person has info to provide to EMTs, ER staff, etc. This is so important!!
      • Plus, provide info on how to move forward if there’s a question about a potential (or obvious) need for immediate assistance. If possible, choose someone with local knowledge — it is really helpful someone knows what resources are available and how to best access them.
        • Whether your emergency contact has this level of knowledge or not, it’s important to put together a notebook, Word document and/or email with all the resources “you” would contact in certain situations, including doctors, home health agencies, DME companies, Medicare/Insurer, pharmacy, etc. Let these organizations know you will be away and who is the emergency contact. Sometimes you may need to fill out a form and/or have your loved one sign off.
          • Share this info with everyone on the team, but MAKE SURE you clearly state who is the #1 emergency contact.
        • For me, my emergency person has been my friend Maria, who is a cardiac care nurse with decades of experience with a myriad of situations heart related and otherwise. I realize many family caregivers will not have someone with level of experience to step in, but do your best to find such a person — perhaps ask one of the nurses, CNAs, etc. that have helped with your loved one if they can help or know someone they trust.
      • Create an alternating schedule for your team to check in on loved ones.
  • Identify an emergency on the ground contact, which may or may not be someone like Maria/your emergency contact. For me, it’s my parent’s neighbor Laurie, who is right across the street. This is so helpful to have someone for hands on/heartfelt help to assess a situation when something is happening and keep everyone as calm as possible.
  • Provide an itinerary and contact info for the places you are staying and/or people you’re staying with while away…to your team and loved ones. You never know when your cell phone won’t be reachable.
  • I have found it’s really helpful to let my parent’s key doctors and their staff know when I’ll be away. That way they can be on alert and at times have checked in with my parents to see how they are doing. This is so helpful, because sometimes loved ones won’t take the same initiative you would to call if something might not be okay.
  • Have all necessary legal documents (i.e. DNR, living will, POA, etc.) readily available for the emergency contact, so they can appropriately organize situations and honor the wishes of your loved one.
  • If there’s a CPAP in use, change the filter, clean the hose and water reservoir, and make sure all is in excellent condition.
  • If oxygen is being used, schedule a check up for before you leave of all related equipment.
  • Stock the fridge and/or order food via Instacart or other delivery service.
  • Schedule any non-urgent deliveries for after you return.
  • Make sure all household items are well-stocked.
  • Make sure all railings, grab bars, etc. are properly reinforced.
  • Double-check that any potential fall hazards are securely out of the way.
  • Double-check heating/cooling systems are operational and checked for any potential problems.
  • Double-check alarm systems.
  • Double-check emergency call devices (such as the commercial of years ago demonstrates, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”)
  • Make sure a weather emergency kit is ready, especially if in areas prone to Mother Nature disasters.

There are surely things to add to this list that are disease and situation specific, but hopefully this provides a good idea of the amount of planning needed for your loved one’s safety and your peace of mind while traveling.

Feel free to reach out to me at to chat about anything I’ve shared. I’m always happy to help fellow caregivers/advocates take the recharge time that’s so important to overall well-being!

Take care, safe travels and enjoy…you deserve it!