Tips for elder airplane travel  

Joan Hatem-Roy

Q: I will be moving my mother from out of state to a facility near where I live. She gets nervous if she is in a vehicle for any length of time so it seems the only way to relocate her is by flying. Due to her advanced age, dementia and frailty I am a little apprehensive. I have made arrangements for an aide to accompany her on the plane. What other preparations should I be making?

A: Airline companies typically will make every accommodation possible as long as they are made aware of the circumstances impacting a traveler ahead of time. When you make the reservations look for a flight that may not be totally booked. A direct flight would avoid the possibility of missing a connecting flight and traveling from one part of the airport to another. Try to reserve seats as close to the front of the plane as possible (not an emergency exit row seat). Request that your mother and the aide be allowed to board and deplane first to avoid the crowding of people. If multiple flights are available choose a time of day when your mother is typically most alert.

For an elderly person who might have mobility issues consider requesting the use of a wheelchair in navigating the airport. Call ahead of time to inform the carrier this will be a need. If your mother has her own wheelchair make sure it is labeled with her name and the phone number of the facility. The wheelchair may need to be stored in the cargo section unless it is a collapsible chair and there is room to store it in the plane.

Passengers 75 years or older have the option for an expedited screening process at the security section. They do not need to remove their shoes or jacket unless further screening is required. If your mother has any implants that may set off the alarm (metal rods/screws for example) inform the TSA screener.

Plane aisles are narrow, remind the aide to take your mother to the restroom before boarding the plane. The aide should carry a travel size hand sanitizer or a small package of Wet Ones. If your mother gets chilly easily she should have alight sweater or jacket to put on in the plane.

Hopefully your mother will not become agitated during the flight. The aide may find it necessary to discreetly explain to the flight attendants and nearby passengers of your mother's dementia and ask for their patience and understanding.

It would be a wise decision to have her personal belongings shipped to the facility so the aide will not have to manage luggage. If there are any medications your mother may need during the time she is traveling make sure they are in the original container clearly labeled. If your mother has not already had the experience of wearing a face covering now is the time to start getting her used to wearing one. She should wear one every day for at least a short period of time so she hopefully can adjust to the covering.

A​re you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available to offer assistance. Call 1-800-892-0890 (for the 23 cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley) or 978-750-4540 (for the five towns in the North Shore). Do you have a question? We encourage comments a​nd inquiries from our readers. Direct correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or info@nselder.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

 

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