Many people assume travel is something you must forego if you are the full-time caregiver for another person. Not so! With a little creativity and willingness to reach out, not only can you take an occasional trip – you must. (If it helps, get your doctor to write a prescription for one!)
Travel has scientifically-proven health benefits for our bodies and brains. Some of these demonstrated health benefits include:
For a full-time caregiver, travel can be just what the doctor ordered before, during, and after the trip.
One study showed that just planning a trip boosts happiness, before even embarking on the trip itself. Planning a trip involves daydreaming and happy thoughts of what could be. This aspect is invaluable for caregivers, giving them something to look forward to when days seem long or difficult.
The trip provides a break from caregiving responsibilities, a change of scenery, and new experiences. Individuals are typically more active when on vacation, which is also good for our overall health.
The study on stress showed that as much as several weeks after returning home, individuals felt more relaxed, more invigorated, and better able to handle daily stresses. How important is that for a caregiver?
Another benefit is that a successful trip shows that it can be done, making it easier to consider planning another trip. Success breeds success! After a while, you might find that planning and taking a trip becomes a regular part of your self-care program.
One of the losses frequently experienced by a grandparent serving as a full-time caregiver is free time to enjoy grandchildren.
As a grandparent, you may know what you would gain from spending quality time with grandchildren, but research shows that children who have a close relationship with a grandparent are less depressed and more resilient as adults. It may be that your grandchildren need you as much as the loved one for whom you are caregiving!
All well and good, you may be thinking, but how do you pull this off when caregiving responsibilities are so demanding?
With enough advance notice, it is often possible for family members to arrange their schedules to cover for you. Often they are happy to do so – they just have to know what you need. (Don’t be afraid of being a “burden”!)
It is also possible to hire a caregiver to stay with your loved one. In this case, it might be wise to hire them for several shorter stints in advance of the trip so they and your loved one become more familiar with each other.
Many families find the use of Adult Day Centers to be invaluable. Many have begun to re-open now that vaccinations have increased and numbers have decreased. Check if this resource is available in your community.
Most likely a combination – an adult day center during the day, family help in the evenings and/or on weekends, supplemented by hired help – will provide the coverage necessary to make the trip a reality. Contact your local Area Agency on Agency, Commission on Aging, or similar organization. Sometimes they have certificates or scholarships available to cover care.
Road Scholar is back in business after taking a break during Covid. They offer several hundred travel options planned specifically for grandparents traveling with grandchildren. They take care of all the details so you are not burdened with researching and making travel arrangements.
Their travel programs are well-vetted and reviewed. Your grandchildren have other children to interact with, while you can socialize with other grandparents (relieving you of having to entertain your grandchild/ren the whole time).
Their categories include STEM, Animals & Wildlife, City Discoveries, National Parks, and International Adventures. Best of all, they have caregiver scholarships available that can cover some or even most of the cost of your trip (some restrictions apply).
Riffing off the Road Scholar model, you could plan a trip with a friend and their grandchild of a similar age, splitting your time between activities with each other and peer time. It makes for a nice balance! Don’t forget: your trip doesn’t have to involve any exotic destination. Just spending time together, away from regular routines and demands, will create wonderful opportunities for making memories.
So don’t deprive yourself – and your grandchild! – of all the benefits of traveling together, even if you are a full-time caregiver. Can you make it happen? Yes, you can!
If you are a full-time caregiver for a loved one, how often do you get away for that much needed respite time? How have you been able to make the arrangements? Have you ever traveled with a grandchild, before or during your time of caregiving? If so, where did you go and what did you do? Please share some of the memories you collected!