Being Prepared for Your Senior Outing
As a caregiver you probably drive a senior on errands, doctor’s visits, or just to have break from the household routine. A little preparation can make your senior outing easier and more enjoyable for both of you.
Prepare the Car
First of all, do you have enough gas? Check the warning lights on the dashboard. It is best to make sure the car is ready to make the trip without accidents and unexpected incidents. Plan to get the car ready on time. Also, try to start out ahead of time. It will help you to be relaxed and calm throughout the drive.
In the car, have essentials for this trip and for longer stays, just in case. Don’t forget your cell phone charger, a blanket, umbrella, and pillows or cushions for back support. Bring along the handicapped tag so you can park in handicapped spaces. In sunny weather, you and the patient may need sunglasses or a hat, and a water bottle. Coffee travel cups, wrapped snacks, and a trash bag are handy at all times. Having a lightweight travel wheelchair in the trunk is an advantage. Don’t always expect the stores or offices you visit to have a wheelchair or a shopper wheelchair cart ready for the senior; they may not.
Prepare the Senior
Bring a go-bag or backpack for the patient which is packed and ready. Include in the bag a change of clothes, diapers, and the patient’s medication list and doctor’s phone numbers. The patient’s identification cards are necessary, especially for doctor’s visits. A roll of toilet paper, disposable wipes, and disposable gloves are also good to bring along.
Explain where you are going, who will be there, and your reason for your senior outing. Try to make the trip enjoyable as possible. Schedule extra time for bathroom breaks, finding a parking space near the door, and unloading and loading.
Seated and Safe
Load the patient first. Try to fit the seat to the patient’s needs. Don’t keep them waiting and standing out in the weather while you load the car Adjust the seat belt and the shoulder belt to their height. Prop cushions or pillow behind them or to their sides.
A patient who is small, underweight, and frail may not be safe in the passenger seat because of the air bag’s impact in an accident. It might be best for the passenger to ride in the back in that case. When riding in the back, it would be good to position the front passenger seat close enough that the senior can place their hands on it for positioning and support.
Don’t leave the senior in the car unmonitored. A dementia patient may try to drive the car if you leave the keys in the ignition. If you leave the motor running while you step out, an elderly patient with dementia may drive away. Also, he may get out of the car, and put himself in danger. If you must get out of the car for a moment, turn off the car, keep the keys in your pocket, and lock the car. Keep the passenger in your sight at all times, and return to the car as quickly as possible.
Relaxed and Patient
While you’re in the car, it might be fun to play the radio or CD’s for entertainment. But be aware that you might not be able to hear them speaking to you. They may not be able to hear you with background noise going on. You might want to turn off the music or lower the volume and give them a chance to speak to you occasionally.
Try to be patient. Respond calmly to their driving advice or to their criticism of your driving. Be able to calmly answer questions about the weather, the destination, and the purpose of your trip, even if they ask more than once. When you stop at your destination, review with them where you both are going and who is going to be there.
Make your senior outing enjoyable and memorable and have fun along the way.