I have worked with older adults for the majority of my career, I have been a Social Worker since 1981, and I have worked in an Assisted Living for over 14 years. Despite all that experience, I confess that it was still a little anxiety provoking to take my Mom away for a Thanksgiving holiday, 3 ½ days outside the environment in which she is very comfortable even though she wanted to go.
The first challenge was that the weather in our destination had suddenly turned colder, resulting in a substantial snowfall. Since my Mom usually goes to Florida during the winter, she did not have warm clothing and boots, so a shopping trip was required. She wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of snow and ice, especially because she walks with a walker and isn’t that steady on her feet. The long drive to the condo resort was smooth, but when we stopped for lunch my mom didn’t want to use her walker. I could see how unsteady she was without it as we walked to the rest rooms, but with help from me and my husband she did it.
When we got to the resort, Mom relaxed while my husband and I took a brisk walk, and all was well. When dinner time came, I thought it best to eat at a restaurant right on the property rather than taking Mom for another 20-30 minute ride. This proved to be a good decision.
The next challenge came when we returned from dinner and it was time for bed. I quickly realized my 4 foot Mom was much too short to get safely in and out of the high beds that even I would struggle to navigate. My son-in-law suggested removing the bed frame to lower the bed, but we didn’t have the tools or manpower. But since I work in the hospitality industry, I knew to call the front desk of the resort. Within 10 minutes, they came to our condo and took the bed frame off. Perfect – problem solved!! Mom could now get safely in and out of bed. Stein Assisted Living’s Nursing staff had her medications all ready for me with a lovely note wishing me a happy holiday… meds for evening and morning were clearly wrapped and labeled which made that easy. I helped Mom a little to get her pajamas on and off and safely into bed as the trip had worn her out a bite. Even I realized she had declined from the last time we traveled, which made me feel a little sad.
The next morning was Thanksgiving. Our invitation for dinner at my nephew and niece’s home wasn’t until 4pm, so we all just hung out and relaxed. My Mom didn’t want to do too much, saving her energy for the Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner was lovely, and Mom did great visiting with everyone!! So far so good… again helped her get to bed but all was well. The next morning we all had breakfast and were planning on going to a local art museum. Mom had the choice come with us or go visit at my nephew’s house with family. She chose the museum. My daughter helped out by staying by Mom’s side and pushing her in a wheelchair, and Mom really came alive discussing the paintings with my daughter, what they meant and what the artist was thinking. The trip was a big success!!
My daughter, son-in-law and his mom went to town and walked around, while my husband and I took Mom back to the resort, where we all rested. I have to say my Mom was tired at the end, but the trip was a great success and most of my worries proved to be unfounded. My mom went home the day before us with my sister and brother-in-law, who brought her back to the Assisted Living. That was enough for Mom and gave us a little time on our own too.
I know it takes a village of people to make a trip like this happen and, luckily, we had that. Everyone really helped. So I would say don’t be afraid to give a short vacation a try. It’s really good for the mental health of the older adult, and can provide a very special time for a family to be together and create good memories. Of course, try not to overdo it and build in rest times.