Having a terminal illness doesn’t automatically mean that a person can’t travel. Unless their health care provider specifically prohibits it, your ill loved one can still be able to visit loved ones or go on vacations to make the most out of their final moments. However, traveling can pose an added risk to patients with a terminal disease, making adequate pre-travel preparations a must.
Here are essential tips to make traveling safe and comfortable for your terminally ill loved one:
1. Speak with the health care team
Before you make any travel plans with your loved one, speak to their health care team at the hospice facility first. Their hospice doctor will be the one to tell you what precautions you need to take and what you need to bring to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your loved one’s health. Once they give you the ‘go’ signal, you can start booking flights and planning the itinerary.
2. Find a hospice at the destination
Having a back-up hospice will ensure that your loved one can receive immediate care in case of an emergency. This is especially important if the vacation will last more than a week. Find a hospice near where you will be staying, and do ask your loved one’s current hospice about their transfer options before you leave–just in case.
3. Stock up on medications
For many hospice patients, taking the medication regularly is imperative to avoid compromising their health even further. If you will be traveling out of state, get as much necessary medication as your loved one needs because you might not be able to fill the prescription in out-of-state pharmacies.
4. Find a pharmacy
In case that your loved one’s medication runs out or is lost in transit, knowing where to get new medication can be a lifesaver. Before you leave, find the nearest pharmacy where you’ll be staying and take note of their contact number and address. If it’s a 24-hour pharmacy, that would be better. But if not, find out their opening hours and get the details of a 24-hour pharmacy in the area just in case.
5. Contact the airline
Airports are usually noisy, crowded, and stressful, making it a not-so-suitable environment for very ill patients. Luckily, many airlines can provide accommodations for terminally ill passengers, such as seats with extra legroom or medical devices. Take note that you may be required to present medical clearance forms upon arrival at the airport.
6. Plan plenty of rest stops
If you are traveling by road, plan more than enough rest stops along the way to allow passengers to stretch their legs, take bathroom breaks, and eat or drink for a few minutes. One rest stop every two to three hours or so should be good enough, depending on your ill loved one’s needs.
Furthermore, keep your time on the road to a minimum so that your loved one won’t get excessively fatigued. Ask their hospice doctor about the maximum number of hours that you can spend on the road before you need to rest at a hotel.
7. Consider oxygen needs
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, patients can’t travel with personal oxygen tanks, only personal oxygen concentrators (POCs). Ask the airline for instructions for arranging oxygen service on the flight. Be sure to do this before booking tickets because airlines are not required to provide oxygen service, and many do not.
Moreover, find out where you can get oxygen refills at your destination. Search for a supply store near the area and take note of their opening hours.
8. Think about other modes of transportation
Flying is the easiest and fastest way to reach a destination, but it can be incredibly stressful and exhausting for people who are terminally ill, mainly due to the physiological changes that occur while in-flight.
Consider other options, such as traveling via car, bus, or train. There are also pilot organizations that offer free private flights to patients in need, so try finding one in your area before considering commercial airlines.
9. Pack healthy and safe food
If your loved one needs to follow a prescribed diet, pack plenty of meals and snacks that they can eat. Also, ensure that foods are clean and kept somewhere hygienic (a clean cooler or lunch carrier) since terminally ill patients are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses that can compromise their health even further and cause delays in the trip.
For people receiving end-of-life care, traveling seems like an impossible undertaking. But with enough preparation and proper planning, terminally ill patients and their companions can travel safely and comfortably to see loved ones, take vacations, and make their last wishes come true.