Your senior parent or loved one is in hospice. They’ve expressed a wish for one last trip to their favorite vacation spot or want to travel to see far-flung family members. You’d love to oblige them, but you’re unsure of the logistics.
Can a hospice patient go on vacation or do any type of traveling?
Hospice patients go on vacation, as they’re encouraged to spend their remaining time to the fullest. However, you must be ready for extra planning, such as:
- Checking with pharmacies for medication
- Transferring care to a different hospice location
- Bringing medicine and medical equipment
Taking a vacation near the end of life certainly comes with its own unique set of considerations.
It’s not your typical pack-and-go scenario, but with a bit of planning and a whole lot of love, traveling with a hospice patient can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
This guide will explain further everything you need to know to plan a vacation for a hospice patient.
You want to make this trip special and stress-free, and the information we’ve got for you today will help you do just that!
Can Hospice Patients Travel?
Hospice care, while not curative treatment and typically associated with end-of-life scenarios, is not a death sentence in and of itself.
Instead, it’s a compassionate approach to palliative care that focuses on enhancing the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, often providing comfort and support for up to six months.
To put it into perspective, six months equates to approximately 182.5 days.
Now, imagine having 182.5 days left to live. If you had a life-limiting illness, would you want to spend your remaining time doing the same thing every day, confined to the same environment?
Most of us would probably answer with a resounding “no”.
Variety, new experiences, and cherished moments with loved ones can bring joy and fulfillment, even in the face of life’s most challenging circumstances.
It’s also important to remember that being in hospice care doesn’t mean losing one’s autonomy.
Whether it’s your senior parent or a loved one, they remain a patient with rights. They, or you as their approved legal guardian, have the ability to discontinue hospice care at any time.
Since someone with a terminal diagnosis can’t get hospice services until a doctor determines their life expectancy is six months or less, the primary goal of this kind of care is to enhance comfort and improve the patient’s quality of life for the time they have remaining.
This includes addressing physical discomfort, but also emotional needs and spiritual care.
In this context, taking a vacation or the trip of a lifetime can be a wonderful idea.
It can provide a change of scenery, create opportunities for meaningful experiences, and bring a sense of normalcy and enjoyment that can significantly boost the patient’s overall well-being.
However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and should be done on a case-by-case basis.
And, it should never be undertaken just because a family caregiver is tired and grieving their impending loss and needs a little break.
Respite care (inpatient care) is typically available under the hospice patient’s plan if a home care provider needs a rest.
Traveling under hospice care comes with its own set of challenges and considerations.
It requires careful planning, care coordination with healthcare providers, and a clear understanding of the patient’s needs and current health status.
It’s also crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the risks, such as the stress of travel, potential health complications, and the availability of necessary care and support at the travel destination.
Being under hospice care doesn’t preclude the possibility of travel or new experiences.
With careful planning and consideration, a vacation can offer hospice patients a valuable opportunity to enjoy their remaining time to the fullest.
Hospice Patient Travel Considerations
Before planning a vacation, it’s best to ask these questions:
- First off, let’s talk about the patient’s health status. It’s crucial to have a candid conversation with their hospice provider about whether travel is even a viable option. This includes discussing the patient’s mobility, medication needs, and overall comfort.
- Can the senior get around well enough that vacationing is worth it? If not, consider only a very short trip or perhaps a local day trip would be better.
- Is the senior’s health in good enough condition that they’ll remember the trip? If their memory is beginning to go and they want to travel anyway, make sure to take lots of photos and videos to look back on. A souvenir might be a good memento.
- Does the senior on hospice have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? There is strict criteria for dementia-related hospice care, so a vacation likely will not work in this case.
- Is the destination hospice-friendly? You’ll want to ensure that the place you’re heading to has the necessary facilities and resources to address the patient’s needs. This might mean checking if there are local hospitals or pharmacies nearby in the case of an emergency, or if the accommodation is wheelchair accessible.
- Transportation is another key consideration. Whether you’re driving, flying, or taking a train, you’ll need to plan for the patient’s comfort and safety. This might involve booking a roomy seat on a plane, planning regular stops on a road trip, or even arranging for medical transport.
- Are you, as the primary caregiver on the trip, able to coordinate everything and undertake care of the patient while you both are traveling? Even though you may want to give your loved one the trip they desire, can you physically and emotionally handle the logistics of the type of care the person needs?
- Lastly, consider getting travel insurance. While it can be a bit tricky to find a provider that covers terminally ill patients, as we’ll discuss in the following section, but it’s definitely worth the effort for that extra peace of mind.
The goal of this trip is to create beautiful memories and ensure the patient’s comfort and happiness during a difficult time.
So, take your time with the planning, involve the patient in the decision-making process, and most importantly, enjoy the journey.
Can A Hospice Patient Travel On A Plane?
Now that you’ve decided whether it’s viable for the hospice patient in your life to take a vacation, the question becomes how will you get there?
Traveling on a plane is a popular mode of travel, but how viable is it for a hospice patient?
It can be viable, but there are two main issues to worry about: transporting the patient’s medications and medical equipment – which we’ll discuss more in the next section – and the health risks that can arise from flying.
We’ve talked about these risks elsewhere on the blog. Sitting for long periods can aggravate existing pain in a hospice patient and increase their risk of blood clots in the legs and cardiovascular issues.
These perils, compounded with the lack of access to medication, can make flying painful.
The risk of death is never zero, which is something you and the senior in your life should discuss in-depth.
The following tips will make traveling by plane easier for a hospice patient.
Take A Short Flight
The longer a senior spends on a plane, the greater their potential health risks.
While not flying at all is the best way to preserve the elderly’s health, if they must fly, keep the flight as short as possible.
Leave For The Airport With A Lot Of Time To Spare
It’s going to take a hospice patient a lot longer to get around than the average person. Even if your senior parent or loved one was once quite spry, those days are over.
Planning enough time to board the plane is one of the most stressful parts of any vacation, yet if you push your senior past their means, they could end up very exhausted, possibly to the point of collapse.
You don’t want to miss your plane either, so what’s the best course of action here?
Become an ultra-early bird, waking up hours and hours before your flight. Get to the airport even earlier than usual and take it as slow as your senior parent or loved one requires.
If you’re early enough, you have the luxury of time. You can stop and take breaks to rest and get your hospice patient on that flight with minimal stress.
Book A Comfortable, Roomy Seat
Even on a short flight, your senior parent or loved one will sit for several hours, so their comfort is paramount.
If you have the option to book a larger or wider seat than usual, that should give the hospice patient plenty of room to stretch out comfortably. At the very least, lock in a window seat for them.
Ensure you’re seated beside them. If not you, it should be another family member traveling with you.
If you seat the senior next to a stranger, you have no idea if that person will be a loud child or someone who hogs up the armrests.
Pack Medications In A Carry-On (If Allowed)
If the senior in your life cannot go longer than a few hours without their medication, they’ll likely have to take it on the plane. Pack the medication in a checked luggage or carry-on bag to ensure it’s accessible when the time comes.
Check the airline’s requirements for luggage ahead of time.
Not only are there certain items you can and cannot bring in a carry-on, but the bag must meet specific dimension requirements.
Rest After The Flight
Once you get off the flight, you’ll be more eager than ever to reach your vacation destination, check into your room (consider booking a roomier, extended stay hotel), and begin the trip.
However, a hospice patient will be very tired after so much activity in one day. Now is no time to rush or start the travel itinerary.
Instead, provide ample time to rest and consider doing activities the next day if possible.
How Do You Travel With A Hospice Patient?
Now let’s talk logistics, touching on the points from the intro so you can successfully travel with your senior in hospice care.
Contact Their Doctor And Other Medical Providers
Preparing a senior in hospice for a vacation is not a one-person job. You must coordinate with the senior’s doctor, caregiver (if that isn’t you), hospice nurses, and other medical staff involved in the senior’s day-to-day care.
Reach Out To Local Hospitals and Pharmacies
What if your senior’s health takes a turn for the worse during the vacation? You don’t want to begin researching hospitals once you’re already at the vacation destination.
This is even more crucial if you travel out of the United States and need to take them to a foreign hospital (be sure to download a language translation app if you will be in a country where you don’t speak the language).
Instead, look them up before the trip and contact a few. Let them know you’re traveling with a terminally ill patient in hospice who may need care.
Next, contact the pharmacies in the area and set up a medication divergence so your senior parent or loved one can continue taking their meds even if they’re halfway across the world.
Transfer Care To Another Hospice
Just because a hospice patient goes on vacation doesn’t mean their hospice ends. If the senior’s hospice center provides it, you might arrange with them to transfer their care from the current service area to another location.
Plan To Transport Medical Equipment And Medication
It’s not nearly as difficult to transport medication as it is medical equipment like walkers, electric wheelchairs, and the like.
You’ll have to contract with the hospice staff and the airline to arrange for travel for these items.
Since you’re requesting special transport services, it is possible that you might have to pay a significant fee.
Here’s a checklist of items you should consider:
- Medications: Pack all necessary medications, and ensure you have enough for the duration of the trip plus some extra in case of delays. Keep them in their original packaging to avoid confusion and for easy identification.
- Medical Equipment: If the patient uses medical equipment like a wheelchair, walker, oxygen concentrator, or nebulizer, these must be packed. Check with your airline or travel company about their policies for transporting medical equipment.
- Comfort Items: This could include a favorite blanket, pillow, or anything else that helps the patient feel comfortable and at ease.
- Medical Documents: Carry a copy of the patient’s medical records, including a list of medications, allergies, and emergency contact information. Also, have the contact details of their doctor and hospice care provider.
- Snacks and Hydration: Depending on dietary restrictions, pack some favorite snacks and drinks. Staying hydrated is important, especially during travel.
- Clothing: Pack enough clothes for the duration of the trip, considering the weather and activities planned. Comfortable clothing and shoes are a must.
- Personal Care Items: Don’t forget essentials like toiletries, tissues, wet wipes, and any other personal care items the patient uses regularly.
- Entertainment: Books, music, a portable DVD player, or an e-reader can help keep the patient entertained during travel and downtime.
- First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and other essentials can be handy for minor injuries or issues.
- Travel Insurance Documents: If you’ve taken out travel insurance, keep these documents handy.
Remember, every patient’s needs are unique, so this list should be customized based on the specific needs and preferences of the individual.
It’s always a good idea to discuss the trip with the patient’s hospice team to ensure all necessary items are included.
Can You Get Travel Insurance If You’re Terminally Ill?
Your senior parent or loved one is greatly looking forward to their vacation. They’re happier than you’ve seen them in such a long time.
However, you recognize that as much as they wish to be able to go, when the day of the vacation arrives, they might not be able to.
It’s for that reason that you’re strongly considering travel insurance.
But, you’re unsure if you can get insurance for your senior if they have a terminal disease. How does it work?
Travel insurance companies consider a terminal illness a preexisting medical condition.
While not every insurance provider allows you to take out travel insurance if you have a preexisting medical condition, some do.
Keep in mind that the preexisting medical condition can limit the scope of travel insurance.
The travel insurance company might not pay out for everything they do for someone without a preexisting medical condition.
Hospice Patient Vacation Ideas
Looking for hospice patient vacation ideas? Remember that even in hospice care, life can and should be enjoyed to the fullest.
Here are some ideas that could make for a memorable and comfortable getaway for your loved one.
- Beach Resorts: There’s something incredibly soothing about the sound of waves and the feel of sand beneath your feet. A beach resort can offer a relaxing environment, with the added benefit of wheelchair accessibility in many locations. Plus, many resorts offer in-room services and amenities that can make the stay comfortable for a hospice patient.
- Cruise Ships: Modern cruise ships are well-equipped to handle passengers with various health conditions. They offer medical facilities on board and can accommodate special needs. Plus, the advantage of a cruise is that you can see multiple places without the hassle of moving around too much.
- Scenic Drives: If long journeys are challenging, consider a scenic drive. It could be a route through a national park, a drive along the coast, or even a tour of a city’s landmarks. The key is to find a route that offers plenty of places to stop, rest, and enjoy the view.
- Spa Retreats: A spa retreat can offer a tranquil environment, perfect for relaxation. Many spas offer a range of services, including massages and therapies that can help manage pain and stress.
- Family Visits: Sometimes, the best vacation is simply spending time with family. If there are relatives who live in a different city or state, consider taking a trip to visit them. This can provide a change of scenery and the comfort of being surrounded by loved ones.
- Staycations: If a destination vacation isn’t feasible, a staycation can be a great alternative. Transform your home into a vacation spot with themed decorations, special meals, and activities your loved one enjoys.
Remember, the best hospice patient vacation ideas are those that prioritize comfort, enjoyment, and the preferences of the patient.
As we’ve said before, always consult with healthcare providers before planning or embarking on a trip, and consider any special patient needs or limitations.
Hospice patients can go on vacation. The time away can benefit their mental health, which could possibly boost to their physical health during their final days, even if it will be short-lived.
However, with a lot more travel logistics to consider than your average trip, you must plan the vacation in advance. Remember there are a lot of moving parts, so contact your senior’s doctor and medical staff as soon as they’ve decided they need a getaway.