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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 29 - Travel With The Dying

'Tis the season of the Road Trip...

But perhaps, not for you, the caregiver. Or maybe it is, because there won't be another season to be shared.

Travel with the terminally ill can be a challenge, because there's a lot that can and does happen that you'll be facing for the very first...and perhaps last...time.

This in one area in which everything does and should revolve around the person for whom you're caring. Travel is a time of vulnerability, and you, the caregiver, are the guardian. What you may want to do has to go by the wayside, replaced by what has to be done to get the trip done, and come safe home.

The basic rule is, of course, this...energy is a resource. Don't overdo. If you can fly, do it. If you drive, take legs that preserve comfort. Don't make it the kind of endurance event that you did in your twenties and thirties and forties and...well, anyway.

And try to stay in places that are clean, comfortable, and easily accessible. Being able to park outside your room is important, believe me.

Next comes the ongoing medical care, both treatments and medications. If radiation and/or chemo is happening, your husband or wife is probably not going to want to be traveling anyway, but there are lunatics out there. (OK. those who know me, chill.)

You obviously have to coordinate with the doctor about care (and let her or hi know what you're doing), and you have to have enough medication to get you through, plus a few days for possible delays. Painkillers and anti-nausea stuff is particularly vital, as they can make or break the enjoyment of a trip.

Also, if "appliances" are needed (wheelchair, walker, and so on) make sure they're in good order. Having to get service on a power chair when you're at Bryce Canyon (about a hundred miles from nowhere) isn't a fun thing to do.

Know what to expect. if your mate's using a wheelchair, and you're flying, the chair gets checked at the gate, and your beloved is going to be strapped into an aisle chair, a skinny little wheelchair which will be moved down to your seat by a flight attendant. It's not comfortable, but with space limited...there it is. The flight attendants are trained to do this, so please...let them.

If there are mobility issues, you'll obviously be pre-boarded...and the airlines tend yo prefer that you have bulkhead seats (the one at the front of the cabin section, facing a wall). There's simply more room there.

The airlines invariably want to help, and to make your experience safe and enjoyable. But do keep in mind that the emphasis is on safe, and if the gate agent feels that it would be too risky for you to fly, you don't fly.

If this happens (and it has happened to me; I collapsed while waiting in line at the gate counter), please don't argue. You won't win, and the person who said "no" did not want to do that.

In that case, you'll have to wait until the situation is stabilized, and then have another try. The airline can require a medical clearance, in which case a local doctor must be seen. They won't charge you extra (or at least, they are not supposed to) for the postponement.

The prospect of having to see a local doctor brings another thing to mind...paperwork.

Have your insurance information with you, and ready to hand, and have as complete a set of medical records, as well. Sure, if you need to visit an ER they can contact your doctor (and they will), but it's a lot more effective if they can download the information off a thumb drive and get a running start..

Make sure that a list of ALL medications (and allergies) is ready to hand...like, on a pice of paper in your purse or wallet.

Finally, of course, there's the elephant in the room...what if your spouse dies en voyage? If that happens, you'll have a lot of decisions to make relatively quickly, and some of them may be expensive. If an open-casket funeral is in the works, the body will have to be embalmed where you are, and shipped home. Not cheap.

If cremation is the order of the day, it's a lot easier, though the airlines still like to know that you've got a dead person in your luggage. Yes, remains have occasionally gotten lost.

Travel can be a big thing for the dying. It's a chance to say goodbye, to people and places, and also a chance to fulfill some long-cherished dreams like seeing the Grand Canyon, or wrestling an alligator in Florida or seeing the birthplace of Winnie The Pooh (well, that's one of mine...).

And it can be a memory that you, the caregiver, will cherish as long as you live.

What other suggestions do you have? What have I missed?

We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday...please click the link to see some really good thoughts on marriage!


  1. So, Andrew, have you seen the Grand Canyon; or wrestled an alligator in Florida? or seen the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh?! Praying if you DO plan to travel any time soon - you follow the above advice and take care of yourself and Barbara; don't over-do it and try to ENJOY it!

    Can't think of any other suggestions - but PRAY you enjoy your vacation...whether it's for real, in a book, on the TV or just from your memories. Those are good memories to hold onto.

    Prayers continue...for both of you!

    1. Yes to the first two, but Pooh still eludes me!

      Travel won't happen, barring a miracle. Even a short car ride hurts too much, but it's OK. I live on a mesa in New Mexico, with mountains all around, with my dogs and tools close at hand. Heaven must be like this.

      Thank you so much for the prayers. Things got drastically worse over the past couple of days, but I am still upright.

    2. Sorry, I should have realized that travel would not be an option...living "on a mesa in New Mexici, with mountains all around, with dogs and tools close at hand" - yes this sounds a lot like Heaven...

    3. No worries! And it is a bit, or more than a bit, like Heaven.

  2. This is information that not many know or have to deal with, but those who do, will be blessed by the wealth of wisdom and practical suggestions you provide. I'll be sharing, Andrew!

    1. Thanks, Beth! And thank you for sharing.

      A lot of the content does come from personal experience...some of which was quite funny in retrospect.

      And please excuse my tardy response. Rough week.