Seniors should prepare for travel emergencies

Posted May 04, 2012, at 7:40 a.m.

While gas prices are coming down, they are still extremely high. Even so, the allure of the open road is sometime too much of a temptation. Traveling is a tradition in Maine, and everybody knows somebody who heads to camp at some point after Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. For some people, summer fun lies behind the wheel. They grab a bag and hit the highway.

While travel is an enjoyable experience for many seniors, nothing can ruin the fun like a medical emergency.

Emergency physicians often see elderly patients who are away from home and in need of medical care due to falls, medication interactions, chronic illness, or as a consequence of not taking usual medications, reports the American College of Emergency Physicians, “a national medical society, which is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education.”

Seniors use emergency medical at twice the rate of other age groups, however, some travel-related emergencies might be avoidable.

The ACEP recommends these travel preparations:

• Make sure all of your medications filled and that you have enough to cover the length of your stay, as well as enough for few days after you return home.

• Keep essential medications and medical equipment with you, rather than in your checked luggage, if traveling by plane or bus.

• Wear a bracelet or necklace that identifies any special medical conditions, and carry this information in your wallet or purse. If you don’t have a File of Life, get one and take it with you.

• Program an emergency contact number into your cell phone putting “ ICEin front of the contact’s name. Medical providers are increasingly aware that an entry of ICE means “In Case of Emergency.”

• If possible take an extra pair of eyeglasses, especially if you need them to drive. Take a copy of the prescription too. It is unlikely that you will need to have new glasses made but better to be prepared.

• Pace yourself when planning activities so as not to tax yourself. It is normal to want to do everything, but be careful and listen to your body.

• Leave friends and family a copy of your travel itinerary.

• Identify emergency medical facilities in the areas where you will be traveling.

Now that you are all prepared for your trip, ACEP suggests you keep the following suggestions in mind while you are away:

• Don’t stop taking your medications as prescribed, even if your daily routine is different.

• Walk around and stretch your legs every 20 minutes or so when seated for long periods. This encourages blood circulation, and helps prevent blood clots.

• Stay hydrated. Drink more water and avoid excess alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.

• If you’re diabetic, monitor blood sugar carefully and follow dietary restrictions.

• Eat regular, well-balanced meals, and avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar content.

• Inform your tour guide about any chronic medical conditions.

And you should never leave home without a fully stocked first-aid kit. Important items to include are: Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin tablets, antihistamine, anti-nausea/motion sickness medication, bandages of assorted sizes, bandage closures, safety pins, triangle bandage, elastic wraps, gauze and adhesive tape, sharp scissors with rounded tips, antiseptic swipes, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and disposable, instant-activating cold packs.

It is also a good idea to take a CPR course if possible before your trip. You never know when you might need it. By the way, don’t forget to have fun.

And speaking of fun, mark your calendar for Senior Expo, at 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Friday, May 18, at Spectacular Event Center, 395 Griffin Road, Bangor. Watch this space for more information.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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