TWAP friend SusanE contacted me for tips on how to tackle the 24-hour drive from Sacramento, CA to Oklahoma City, OK with her 78-year old mom on board. Susan’s timing was perfect as I’m mulling over the drive from Mom’s house in Mooresville, IN to dear friends in Marietta, GA for Thanksgiving. Although not near as long of a drive (8 hours vs. 24), it still requires a fair bit of planning before jumping in the car.
Susan wisely was going to rent a van to give everyone in her party room to stretch out (she is married and has 3 children over the age of 17 who would also be on the trip). She has since changed her mind though and will instead vacation in Portland, OR (a 9 hour drive). Although Susan was looking forward to everyone attending a family reunion, her mom is in the early stages of dementia. Rightly so, Susan was concerned the trip would be too much for her mom.
I must agree with Susan. Even if her mom has room to nap, I’m concerned about how she will react when she wakes up in a strange location (and one that’s moving). I would recommend testing out a closer location before committing to a 24 hour haul just to be sure that your Mom can take a 2-3 day driving trip. Dementia can be quite challenging and it could be problematic if there is an issue half way through the trip.
Susan, safe travels and if you get a chance, we would love to see pictures of your trip to Portland! Let us know how things go and any recommendations you have from your travels!
For my road trip over Thanksgiving, Mom and I will be joined by my brother, his wife and their 3 ½ year-old twin girls. To break up the trip, Eric (my brother) and his family will drive from Ann Arbor, MI to Mom’s house in Mooresville, Indiana and stay the night. The next day, we’ll make the 8-hour drive to Georgia in separate vehicles to give everyone more room.
If you’re planning a road trip with aging parents this summer, here are 9 tips to make the foray more manageable:
- Plan for frequent stops. As people age, urinary incontinence is a common issue and requires more frequent restroom breaks. Your parent may be embarrassed to mention it so don’t make them ask. Plan on stopping for a restroom break every two hours. Beyond the bodily necessities for mom and the twins everyone can stretch their legs and, in the twins’ case, do some running around. Mom won’t partake in “running around” although walking a bit will help keep the blood flowing and avoid any clots from forming in her legs.
My 3 1/2 year old twin nieces need to get out of the car and run every couple of hours:
- Bring tissues, paper towels and sanitary wipes. You never know when someone is going to have an upset stomach or spill something. Having wipes at the ready will go a l-l-o-o-n-n-g-g way in saving the interior of your car (and your sanity).
- Print an itinerary and give to each person in the car. Include the times you’ll pass cities along your drive along with planned bathroom breaks. Be specific! The more specific you are, hopefully the less you’ll hear “Are we there yet?” Save yourself and bring a detailed itinerary.
- Rent a van or other larger vehicle. Think about how torturous it is to fly coach for long distances – knees jammed into the seat in front of you, a stranger reclining in your lap, fighting over the arm rest. Air travel used to be sexy and glamorous. Alas, now it’s an endurance test of bodily contortions. Don’t make the same mistake when you’re driving long distances. Rent a vehicle that allows for a bit of movement and leg room for everyone in the car.
- Hydrate! Mom hates drinking water although when we fly, we have a pact that for every cocktail we consume, we drink a glass of water, thus ensuring we keep hydrated. On a road trip, it’s easy to stop drinking water to prolong having to go to the bathroom. That is the exact opposite of what travelers should be doing! Fill water bottles and make sure everyone adequately hydrates during the drive. Remind your travelers that you’ll be stopping every two hours, so drink up!
- Bring food and snacks for everyone. People of all ages get testy when hungry, so bring healthy snacks for the road. This is particularly helpful for older adults as their blood sugar can drop which in turn can lead to a visit to the hospital. It can also be useful if your parent has to eat before taking medicines and you’re not ready to stop for a full meal. When my brother and I were little, mom and dad let us pick any snack we wanted to bring along. It was awesome as we got it as a treat if we were good throughout the drive! A little bribery goes a long way to a 7-year-old!
- Bring entertainment for everyone. Nothing spells doom for a long car ride than boredom; however, finding entertainment for everyone in your party can be tricky. I get nauseous when reading in a car so I have to find other entertainment to wile away the hours. If your parents don’t have that issue, why not surprise them with a new book for the journey? Bring an iPad or other playback device to watch videos. Other options could include crossword puzzles, newspapers, heck, what about coloring books?!?! Apples to Apples could be a fun car game as well as I Spy. Be creative and think outside the box!
- Make sure your car is up for the journey. If you don’t presently have roadside assistance from AAA or another vendor, right before a long road trip may be the time to purchase such services. In addition, make sure your car is ready for the road with the following items:
- Jumper cables
- Motor oil
- Windshield wiper fluid
- Maps and driving directions
- Spare keys
- Pillows and blankets
- Ice scraper
- Small container of change for parking meters and toll roads
- Spare tire and tire iron
My last family road trip was in October 2004. Eric and I converged on our parents’ home in Mooresville and together, the four of us drove the eight hours to Branson, Missouri. It had been years since the family had taken a road trip together and I remember signing goofy songs and having a riot well before we ever crossed the Indiana state line. That trip holds a special place in my heart as it’s the last vacation my entire family took together. My father passed away unexpectedly less than a year later.
Although a plane can get you to your destination quickly, there’s nothing like a road trip to create memories that will last a lifetime.When you were a child, did you take road trips with your parents? Think about the memories that still linger to this day. It’s time to make your own – although this time, you’re in the driver’s seat vs. sitting in the back seat playing games!
What’s your favorite family road trip memory?