Some reminders if you’re traveling with an elderly parent

My mother has had trouble walking for many years now, and it’s progressively gotten worse. It’s one reason she generally refuses to do anything that requires a lot of walking. But she’s been expressing interest in traveling abroad more these days, and thus, I decided that a trip to Hong Kong would be a good test run.

It started out easily enough, with the two of us walking at a relaxed pace in the airport. Once we met up with the rest of the group in Hong Kong, however, I realized that we made a mistake signing up to join a tour group, among many other lessons that I need to keep in mind the next time we plan a trip. Here are just some of them.

1. Do your own tour. A tour group includes far too many people, and chances are high that you and your parent will lag behind the rest of them, and the rest of your tour group are not likely to pay attention to everyone else and notice when you have not caught up or have been left behind. You also can’t ask everyone else to stop while your parent catches his/her breath. Moreover, tour groups generally travel in tour buses, which are hellish to climb into if you’re old and have serious knee problems.

Instead, you should look into private tours that can welcome only two people. We enlisted the services of Frank Law in the afternoon of our first day. We were picked up at our hotel and went to Lantau Island by private car, and he was kind enough to let us go at a slow pace during the tour.

On our last day, we opted out of the city tour and went to various locations on our own. It allowed us to go as slowly as we needed to and also to see other sights that the usual city tour wouldn’t have shown us.

2. Expect a lot of rest stops. Walking will not be easy even if your parent is walking with the assistance of a cane. Just enjoy the breaks and take it as an opportunity to take a better look at the place.

3. Be organized. Not only will you need to help your parent walk, but you should also be prepared to handle tasks such as filling out forms and even ordering food. Make sure any documents you need are kept in a single pouch and keep them close.

4. Don’t hesitate to ask for wheelchair assistance. Approach any person who works at, say, the airport or ferry terminal for help. Wheelchairs will be available, and a member of the personnel will even push the wheelchair for you and get you through any lines quickly. Insist on wheelchairs when you need them. We were told at the check-in counter in Hong Kong that we only had to walk a short distance to the gate and that we won’t be able to get to the gate until a half-hour before boarding if we waited for a wheelchair. It was a good thing we put our foot down because the walk was by no means short. You know your parent’s physical ability better, so you are the one equipped to make the best decision.

5. Consider bringing a wheelchair. Yes, you can do this! Make sure to check your airline’s regulations on bringing a wheelchair. They have certain size restrictions, and some airlines would allow you to bring the wheelchair in the cabin if you’re able to reserve a spot in time. If you can’t bring it with you in the cabin, you will have to check it in.

6. Make sure you have important supplies, like medications and bandages for any sudden cuts and injuries.

So yeah. I discovered that traveling with an elderly parent is pretty tough, and I’m rather ashamed to admit that I was on edge and stressed out at certain points. I hope to do better next time, but at least I now know what needs to be done and what we should bring on trips.

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