When Seniors’ Travel Goes Wrong – Preventive Steps for Peace of Mind

Traveling the world is a favorite activity of many seniors, maybe even your own loved ones.

Just as you worry about their health and safety when they are in their own homes, you worry about them when they are traveling across continents — maybe even more because they’re so far away!

There are just so many things that can go wrong.

We know when our own aging parents are traveling in another country we worry about what will happen to them. They are slowing down both mentally and physically but they don’t let that stop them from visiting places they have always dreamed of going like sailing on every major river in the world! By the way, they have accomplished this feat!

When they get the itch and start planning their trip, we start to worry a little until eventually the worry grows as the departure date nears.

When Travels Go Wrong

Many things can happen to upset the best laid plans of our senior loved ones’ trip.

  1. Lose their luggage, including their money, passport or especially prescription drugs. They could have help with this from the airlines or other transportation means but they could also leave a bag somewhere and walk off without it!
  2. Break their glasses, rendering them helpless. This could happen here at home too but getting a prescription then getting it made quickly would be next to impossible to do abroad.
  3. Get pockets picked, mugged or assaulted. Again this could happen stateside but no family will be nearby to help them and they may be in a location where there is no one that speaks English to assist them.
  4. Get sick, fall and break a bone or suffer some medical trauma – such as a stroke or heart attack. Again, there is no one they know where they can turn for help, no one nearby and potentially no one to speak the language to get or give details. Where is the hospital, how do you call 911 in a foreign country and how can you pay for care?
  5. Do they carry their advance directives and, even if so, do other countries honor them?
  6. Get hit by a car crossing a street and end up in literally a world of hurt.
  7. Worst of all imaginable situations, die!

Planning Ahead for Problems

  • Carry important papers, prescription drugs (and paper prescriptions), and extra glasses in a separate bag from you luggage and keep that with your person at all times.
  • Stay alert to suspicious situations, such as dark streets, stay in a group or travel only where you know where you are going.
  • Avoid getting lost to reduce the odds of becoming vulnerable prey to shady characters. Learn enough of the native language before leaving to know how to ask for emergency help. As an alternative, there are a number of smartphone apps that will translate spoken words into the local language.
  • Learn about what to do in case of emergency, such as how to contact police or ambulances before they travel. Travel when well.
  • Get travelers insurance so they can cancel a trip if need be without undue financial penalty instead of going when they probably should haven’t gone so as not to ‘lose the cost of the fare’.
  • Stay safe; remember all the safety precautions that are important at home are still important when they are away from home.
  • Don’t cross before looking both ways! Learn the rules of the road so they will be prepared, such as on which side the cars drive, for safety’s sake.

There is another safety precaution – literally insurance – that we think could be a great idea for traveling seniors, whether they are in good health or experiencing some effects of aging that may predispose them for more problems, and give family caregivers a bit more peace of mind.

Medical Peace of Mind for Travel

What happens when your senior loved one becomes seriously ill or injured in a foreign country? Do you know how they would get care – and then pay for it afterward? There is a type of insurance program that answers those questions.

Medical travel insurance is offered by many companies, which means there are options so make sure you are getting coverage that does what you want. The ones we think are best provide for medical transport anywhere in the world when your senior is away from home, especially when they are overseas. If they become injured or hospitalized when traveling, they provide them transport to the senior’s home country and to the hospital of their choice.

Considering that the cost of medical transport typically averages at $25,000 domestically and $100,000 internationally, the fee for a service like this would be considered minimal if you – or especially a loved one – needed it. These plans provide medical transport whether your senior is traveling on business or for enjoyment. It will, in the event that this is needed, transport mortal remains. You must enroll prior to travel and you can arrange a membership for an individual or family.

We wish that our family knew about this program and were members before one of our senior loved ones ended up in an airport hospital unable to travel (or even allowed to get on the plane) as well as the companion while in a European country recently. This travel medical insurance may have allowed more speedy transfer back home to a medical facility and doctor of our choice instead of being at the mercy of an airport staff and local rules.

You can find these insurance offerings through your travel agent, insurance agent and through membership organizations such as AARP.

We encourage you to review these important tips with your seniors before they travel so they have more preparation in the event of emergency and may be able to navigate their way home safely.