Comfortable Travel for Seniors

Old age can bring along a lot of independence. Senior citizens have the liberty to spend time as they wish, pursuing interests and other hobbies. One such hobby that a lot of seniors take up is traveling. However, it is often accompanied by a range of health issues which although not life-threatening, can severely hamper mobility and overall happiness. We have listed down some common issues faced by elder citizens while traveling and simple ways by which they can be overcome.

1. Missing Medications

Medications become an integral part in the later stages of life. Besides illnesses, the elderly have to take a variety of pills like vitamins, food supplements, essential minerals, etc. for several different reasons. Seniors usually take a combination of these medications to maintain their health. It is estimated that patients miss up to 50% of their medicine doses for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. This could be due to several reasons:

  1. Excessive Travel
  2. Inability to manage doses
  3. Weak eyesight which renders the person unable to identify the correct medication

Missing dosages regularly can cause a relapse and a reduced quality of life. It is especially dangerous for seniors who travel. It can be harmful to them if their health deteriorates in a place with limited medical facilities. Medicine schedules should not be taken lightly. People should put in place mechanisms which ensure medications are taken as prescribed. There are several ways to achieve this goal:

  1. Keep a note of your medicine intake in your medicine box.
  2. Set reminder alarms.
  3. Maintain a medicine pill box.

While the first two options are useful, they are difficult to implement while traveling. Pill boxes are the most effective option here as they can be customized easily. There are a variety of pillboxes available:

  1. Weekly pillboxes: These are useful if an elderly person has to take medication once a day.
  2. Weekly Multi-dose pill-boxes: These boxes come with multiple compartments to segregate medicines and are a blessing for those who are prescribed several medicines.
  3. Monthly pill boxes
  4. Travel pillboxes with a water bottle

Medication can be organized in these boxes by patients or their caregivers once a week or month and then be tracked easily for proper intake. This makes taking medication easy for the elderly as they do not have to consult the prescription and dosage every time.

2. Aching and Swollen Feet

Traveling for longer distances can take a huge toll on your body. Whether it be traveling by trains, buses, or airplanes, seniors are prone to suffering pains from swollen feet and aching legs, sometimes for days after their trip. Additionally, the decrease in air pressure during long-haul flights can cause Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a condition wherein blood clots form in the deep veins due to slow blood circulation. This can cause inflammation, leg ulcers, and in severe cases, pulmonary embolism. Patients suffering from varicose veins are more susceptible to blood clotting and have a slightly higher probability of DVT while flying. An elderly person can employ the following techniques while traveling to minimize the stress on their legs and feet:

  1. Move around – It is recommended that you get up every 2-3 hours and walk around for 5 minutes. This will improve blood circulation and also relax the cramped muscles.
  2. Elevate the legs – If it is possible, try and raise your legs for a few minutes every hour. This gets the blood flowing and reduces swelling. You can get a good plastic or wooden bench for leg support during long travels.
  3. Compression socks – Compression socks are recommended by several doctors to prevent DVT. These socks circulate blood from the foot to the thighs, reducing the probability of clot formation.

3. Back and Spine Problems

As your spine ages, you may start feeling recurrent backaches of varying intensity. The frequency of these increase with age and the most common reasons for developing back pain after 50 are degeneration of discs and joints, spinal stenosis, and various other spine and lower back related issues. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the US reported that almost 60% of older adults were noted sitting for more than 4 hours at a time per day. Hence, it is recommended that the elderly ensure that they maintain proper posture while watching TV, working on a computer, or traveling. Surprisingly, in spite of the importance of back health, hardly any care is given to ergonomically designed car-seats, bus-seats, or even airline seats. Hence, over the longer term, the chances of spine degeneration increase if no steps are taken. There are several things an elderly person can do to maintain a good back.

  1. Stretch – It is a good practice to stand-up and do stretches every couple of hours. This helps release the tension in the lower back.
  2. Bring a Back Support – Irrespective of your mode of transport, you should always carry an ergonomically designed back-rest which improves sitting posture and relieves pain.
  3. Be Careful While Lifting Luggage – Lifting heavy bags may strain your back. Although it is not advisable to lift heavy luggage, if you need to, it is a good idea to break your action into smaller parts and move slowly.
  4. Invest in a Neck Pillow - A good neck pillow provides adequate support to the neck while traveling. While choosing a neck pillow, you should consider the weight of the pillow, its design, and the comfort it provides. The ring-shaped pillows and U-shaped pillows are most popular. Many users find ring-shaped ones constricting and/or hot. Hence, U-shaped pillows are recommended by most as they provide all the benefits without compromising on comfort.
  5. Get a Good Travel Pillow -A good sleeping pillow provides adequate support to the head and neck, helping in keeping the spine upright. A pillow with memory foam is sensitive to pressure and temperature and hence molds to the shape of an individual's body. A good pillow made of memory foam provides adequate support to the head and neck.

4. Toilet Usage

The loss in mobility caused by advancing age makes elderly people unable to do several tasks independently. This makes undertaking longer trips a tedious process. Moreover, dirty public toilets can be home to dangerous viruses such as antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus, norovirus (the “cruise ship bug”), E. coli, shigella, streptococcus, and several gastrointestinal viruses which the elderly are prone to contracting. Portable toilets are the best solution to this, whether at home or while traveling. There are several types of portable toilets available:

  1. Foldable Commode Chairs - The chair is useful while at home with an Indian toilet, or while traveling as public toilet facilities are unreliable and often filthy. Patients and individuals suffering from joint pain find it very difficult to use Indian commodes as these require squatting and balancing. Commode chairs can be simply placed over the Indian commode and used as a western commode. Also, since they are foldable, they take up very less space in storage at home or while traveling.
  2. Portable Travel Toilet - These are completely self-sufficient western toilets that can be set up anywhere. Portable toilets can come with a range of facilities like a mini-flush tank, easy waste disposal systems, and several other features.
  3. PeeBuddy - These are funnel-shaped cones that come in handy in the absence of clean toilets. The funnel allows women to pee while standing.

5. Hygiene for Elderly Women

Travelling exposes a person to a host of different viruses and bacteria. The elderly are at an increased risk of contracting infections while traveling as advanced age might render their immune systems weak. Hygiene challenges are especially daunting for aging women as the availability of facilities unique to females is seldom considered important. There are several issues that a woman can face while on the road. Menstrual Hygiene and Pain- Maintaining menstrual hygiene can be challenging for women while traveling. Additionally, women experiencing irregular period cycles or menopause need to manage their situation carefully. Cramps during periods can be debilitating and can cause embarrassment and inconvenience. Lack of Clean Portable Water- It is necessary to keep private areas clean to keep infections at bay. Yeast infections generally arise due to moisture and this issue increases while traveling. There are several ways women can maintain menstrual hygiene:

  1. Carry disposable bags to manage menstrual waste.
  2. Use intimate wipes as they contain mild cleaning agents perfect for sensitive areas.

To help manage the specific travel requirements of the elderly, we have collated a list of products that you can purchase. The products have been shortlisted after carefully taking into consideration the factors mentioned above.

1) Portable Travel Toilet

This portable travel toilet is small and foldable and hence takes up less storage space. Polybags can be attached easily to the seat which can be removed for easy disposal. The chair comes with a water spray trigger gun with an integrated refillable water tank. It is convenient to carry as all contents fit snugly in a zipper carry bag. 

2) Steel Folding Commode Chair

This foldable steel commode chair is ideal for any household with a senior citizen or a member with limited mobility. It has several practical features like a strong hand grip, an antimicrobial plastic seat cover, adjustable height, and a bowl that slides out from both sides for easy cleaning. The casters provide easy shifting while the folding chair legs help save storage space.

3) Premium Travel Hygiene Kit for Women

This travel hygiene kit designed for women is aimed at making the whole travel experience significantly comfortable. The products are thoughtfully included to address several issues. The kit includes: 1) PeeBuddy funnels 2) Feminine Pain Relief Patches 3) General Use Disposal Bags 4) Intimate and Multi-Use Wet Wipes 5) Underarm Sweat Pads 6) Mosquito Repellant Patches 

4) Travel Socks

These compression socks are made with microfiber and prevent feet from swelling and aching while traveling. They squeeze blood in an upward direction in the legs by applying maximum compression at the ankle which gradually reduces as it approaches the calf. This helps reduce congestion, relieve pain, fatigue, and swelling, which decreases the risk of DVT, edema, and blood clots. The premium microfiber fabric allows the skin to breathe and regulate temperature easily and also retains its shape and compression level even with repeated washes. 

 

5) Mini Travel Pillow

Made of memory foam that molds itself the unique shape of your head, neck, and shoulder area for custom support, the White Willow Travel Pillow provides good neck and head support. The orthopedic shape cradles your head and neck and ensures proper spinal alignment to relax stiff neck, sore back, and muscle stiffness. 

6) Musical Neck Pillow

Musical Neck Pillow

The Musical Neck Pillow is a U-shaped, light-weight, ergonomically designed travel pillow that provides comfort to the neck and shoulders. It also has an inbuilt mp3 connector and speakers to play your favorite music while you rest. It is available in 4 attractive colors: Red, Black, Green, and Blue. 

7) Pill Organizers

These pill organizers help you resolve the issue of missing medications or taking improper dosages. It is very convenient for patients who can't read or have weak eyesight. There are various types of pill organizers you can use as per your requirement. Pill Organizer with Water-bottle:This bottle has a tray to keep pills that slides into the side of the bottle. The tray has a provision to carry 7 days' worth of medication in different compartments. 

  Pill Organizer Combo: This pill organizer combo resolves all your issues. A pack of pill cutter, a bottle, and an organizer with three layers will help you keep your pills organized. A pill splitter cuts pills accurately in half and is useful for those who have difficulty swallowing large pills.  

8) Backrest

The Xamax Executive Backrest Plus improves sitting posture. It covers the complete lumber region while the attached comfort sheet helps you maintain your position without sliding. It can be used on half-back and full-back chairs in offices, and on car seats too.  

Travel Comfortably!

Old age should not be a limiting factor for traveling. Just a little bit of care and precaution will enable you to enjoy your freedom with dignity and without compromising on your health and well-being.    

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