Increasing numbers of older and retired persons are taking full advantage of the pleasures of domestic and international travel. Between 13 and 15 percent of all travelers in the U.S. are 65 years of age and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although travel is an enjoyable experience for many in retirement, mishaps can lead to the need for emergency medical attention away from home.
Emergency physicians are often the recipients of visits from elderly patients 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.
Although use of emergency medical services by older persons is increasing at twice the rate of other age groups, some travel-related emergency department visits may be avoidable with early travel preparation and by keeping a few basic measures in mind.
- Get all necessary medications filled. Make certain you have enough to cover the length of your stay and a few days after your return home.
- Keep essential medications and medical equipment with you, rather than in your checked luggage.
- Wear a bracelet or necklace that identifies any special medical conditions and carry this information in your wallet.
- Program an emergency contact number into your cell phone using the address notation "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) as medical providers are increasingly using this mechanism to obtain medical information.
- Consider packing an extra pair of eyeglasses, especially if you need them to drive.
- Plan your daily travel activities so they do not tax your physical abilities.
- Visit your doctor for a checkup, especially before lengthy travel.
- Leave friends and family a copy of your travel itinerary.
- Identify emergency medical facilities in the areas where you will be traveling.
- Keep a list of all medications (including name, strength and how often you take it) as well as all allergies with you on your person at all times.
- Continue taking your medications as prescribed, even though your travel activities may change your daily routine.
- Set an alarm to remind you to take your medications at the regularly scheduled times.
- 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 alcohol beverages and caffeinated products.
- Monitor blood sugar, if diabetic, and follow dietary restrictions.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals, and avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar content.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Do not overexert yourself. Take it easy and enjoy your new surroundings.
- Inform your tour guide about any chronic medical conditions.