Planning a getaway with an elder loved one, whether it is for a day at the beach or a longer trip, requires planning, flexibility, creativity and a sense of humor.
If your destination is the ocean, take a walk with Bubbe before you go anywhere. Get a sense of her balance and gait. If you have any concerns, adjust your plans. Even if mobility hasn’t been an issue for her, walking on sand (with its uneven terrain, rocks and other fall hazards) may need to change to a stroll on the boardwalk. Take walking and water breaks and enjoy sitting on a bench by the beach, soaking up the sun and salt air (bring sunscreen and hat).
If lunch is part of your itinerary, know where your options are located, make a reservation if possible. (Avoid waiting in line on a hot day. Inside seating could be more comfortable.)
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) provides wheelchairs specially designed for beaches, parks and pools. Keep in mind that you are responsible for transferring your loved one to and from the chair and pushing it.
Look at DCR’s website to see what beaches throughout the Commonwealth can offer. You will find information on wheelchairs, accessible bathrooms, shade shelters, and more: mass.gov
I just read an article about two teens from Manchester-by-the-Sea who use a golf cart to transport people to Singing Beach from the commuter rail or parking lot. Hopefully, their entrepreneurial spirit will catch on at other beaches.
Don’t forget water, sunscreen and hats!
Precious moments don’t have to be missed. They just have to be rethought. My Dad just became a great-grandfather for the second time. We drove from Boston to New York to attend the Simchat bat. Here’s what I learned about crossing state boundaries with my dad and his significant other.
Consider an overnight stay.
Long drives can be exhausting. We decided to leave a day before the naming so that we didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic and having to rush the event. Plus, it gave us time to relax and recharge.
When booking hotels, reserve a handicapped accessible room. Knowing that my Dad was in a room with a walk-in shower, safety rails in the bathroom and a louder doorbell gave all of us peace of mind.
If you are not rooming together, get adjoining rooms or at least stay on the same floor in close proximity.
Hotels have long corridors that become longer as we age. Request rooms near the elevator.
Carry singles and fives to tip the staff so that you don’t have to be a superhero. These wonderful people are your go-to resources to ensure a smooth trip for everyone.
Valet park if possible.
Let the staff bring bags to rooms. Ask where the outlets are and make sure they work (for phone and hearing aid charging). Check the TV remote while staff are in the room. (The batteries can be low and if it doesn’t work, this will save you from a late-night phone call).
Many hotels are using QR codes instead of printed materials to share information about rooms or menus. Ask for info in writing.
Request a later checkout so no one feels rushed.
Arrange for a valet to meet you in your room so that bags can be brought to the lobby and loaded into the car.
A request to those who are planning events
Most of your favorite elders want to join in the celebration. But please take a few things into consideration when planning.
Is the wedding venue easily accessible? If you are getting married on top of a mountain, send the invitation but understand that bubbe and zayde may not attend.
Alternatives: Rethink the venue, inquire about services for people with limited mobility, then share this information with them. Or, don’t put pressure on them to attend. Make a special visit to them where you can have your own personal celebration.
If zayde and bubbe are coming to the event, suggest that they bring a companion to help them navigate. You could assign a friend or family member to them to make sure they have food from the buffet or an escort to the restroom or bring them home.
Let bubbe and zayde know in advance if they are participating in a religious service (for example, during my great-niece’s brit bat, the rabbi came over to my father so that he could recite a blessing to the baby).
I had a client, Fran, whose daughter Laurie couldn’t imagine her son becoming a bar mitzvah without his grandmother being there. Fran lived in an assisted living residence in the Boston area and the Bar Mitzvah was in New York.
Fran was frail, nonverbal, reliant on a wheelchair, and a car ride seemed overwhelming (as did traveling by plane). Her daughter was also worried about how she could tend to Fran during the event.
How would she fare with a huge disruption to her generally quiet routine? Travel, attending the service, party and brunch could have taken a toll on Fran.
What about bringing the bar mitzvah to Fran? I suggested that Laurie talk to the manager of the residence to see if they could host a smaller version. Fortunately, everyone loved the idea (although the bar mitzvah boy wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of doing a repeat performance).
A week after the New York event, the community room at Fran’s residence was transformed into a mini synagogue. After the ceremony (the bar mitzvah boy turned out to be very proud), the icing on the cake was hearing Fran, who had aphasia, sing along to some of the prayers. Θ
Carolyn Schultz Eggert writes from Newton. Previously, she was a reporter for People magazine. Questions? Please email her at Carolyneggert@yahoo.com.