Senior Physical Health

Tips to Remember Before Road Trips with Grandparents

Tips to Remember Before Road Trips with Grandparents

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You’re traveling over the river and through the woods, this time WITH Grandma. The memories will be sweet.

But she might not want to be the squeaky wheel for her own needs. So here are some steps in the right direction to be sure she travels comfortably.

Frontida Senior Living Communities, including Fond du Lac assisted living facilities, provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.

1. Careful with Your Full Throttle / Pedal to the Metal

That GPS is taunting you with its “estimated time of arrival,” and you want to beat it. Not to mention that little pipsqueak car gunning it behind you.

But if Grandma is stuck in the back, the road is windy, the traffic is tough, and you’re whizzing through traffic and mountains alike, it can really increase her blood pressure.

Which could lead to strokes, heart attacks, blood sugar issues… or just plain dizziness, meaning more falls, broken hips, stitches.

Definitely a case of “the hurrier you go, the behinder you get.” So go easy on the speedometer.

Hint: The posted speed limit is a really good guide here. *wink*

2. Don’t Just Sail Through—Stop Frequently

You want to get where you’re going and rest there.

But sitting, legs hanging down, for hours at a time isn’t good for anyone’s blood circulation, especially Grandma’s.

Breaks don’t have to be long—just a few minutes to walk and get the kinks out, the blood flowing. It helps decrease swelling, numbness, blood clots…which again decreases falls and strokes.

Meaning you’ll all get where you’re going with a lot less pain.

Let the journey there be a part of the vacation. Hey, you may even find a few roses to smell. If it’s winter? Icicles can be really cool to study [no pun intended].

3. Hold Up So She Doesn’t Have To

If you’re the son or grandson, Grandma may not feel comfortable volunteering her regular need for the facilities.

So combine your quick walks with a clean-bathroom break every hour and a half or so.

Yes, she could probably wait, but that increases chances of UTIs—which can lead to all sorts of side effects.

And encourage her to take the time she needs. Rushing early breaks could lead to much longer, more uncomfortable breaks later.

4. Wet Whistles Whistle Better

Grandma may not ask for water because she doesn’t want to increase stops to the bathroom. But you’ll already be stopping for that, right? (See #3)

So encourage liquids.

Without them, she can get dehydrated, which could again lead to UTIs, dizziness, falls, … and even trouble processing food she’s eaten—actually causing longer bathroom breaks.

  • Keep bottles of water on hand. Bring straws and sealed lids if that’s easier for her to handle in the moving car.
  • Pack juicy fruits (oranges, grapes, even carrots).
  • Consider what other types of snacks you have in the car and whether they increase thirst. If they do, be sure to have more liquids to compensate.

Grandma’s not dumb. She often knows what she needs—she just may not want to be a bother. Make it easy for her.

5. Gauging the Temperature—Keep Your Hot Rod Comfortably Cool

We are so blessed to have all sorts of gadgets to keep us warm in the winter, cool in the summer. But Grandma might need different settings than you do. And it might change as the trip drags on.

  • Is the fan blowing too hard? It could dry out her, causing her to feel sick or dehydrated. (Again, those pesky UTIs.)
  • Is the temperature too high or two low? She doesn’t want to catch a chill, but she also doesn’t want to overheat.
  • Is the seat warmer getting too hot? Yes, it’s possible to get burned. (Believe me, I’ve done it. Don’t laugh.)
  • Is her clothing increasing the effects of the thermostat?

Ask her regularly how she feels. If the car allows for different zones, encourage her to handle her own temperature controls.

Sometimes ditching the bulky coat and covering her lap with blankets instead can help her regulate her own body’s thermostat—better than a lot of forced heat from the dashboard.

6. Fueling Up with High Octane

Road trips often mean quick meals and snacks you don’t eat on a regular basis. It’s half the fun.

But you know how it is when you finish a trip and your system is all messed up. Be sure food choices aren’t causing excess problems for Grandma.

  • Is she getting what she needs to go with medications?
  • Is she getting her medications?
  • Is the different fat content, sugar content, carb content enough to cause real problems in the bathroom later?

Moderation is key here. Maybe try to make one of your meals the good stuff. Add healthy snacks.

And, again, keep the liquids coming.

7. Don’t Catch the Red Eye

Now this one could be debatable. If Grandma sleeps really well in cramped positions and would rather curl up in the car overnight and enjoy your destination during the day, that’s great. You’ll just need the Visine for yourself.

But if there’s any chance traveling overnight could affect her rest, a good night sleep in bed and daylight trekking is probably a better bet.

Hey, if she’s an early riser, you could pick her up from her assisted living facility before dawn, get an early show on the road, and watch the sunrise through the windshield together.

Either way, Grandma might want to take a nap along the way. So bring a neck pillow for her so she isn’t doing that awful head-bob thing that feels so awful no matter what your age.

8. Setting the Volume for Everyone

What would road trips be without music? But maybe let Grandma be DJ. At least part of the time. She may introduce you to some really cool music—and memories to go with it.

But if music is too loud, it could drown out conversation.

Also remember that since everyone’s facing forward, voices may be one directional. Roads can be loud. Cars make noise. Added up, it can be hard to hear.

  • If she’s sitting in the back, try to turn your head so your voice carries.
  • Be willing to repeat.
  • Catch her eye in the rearview mirror. Somehow it’s easier to understand someone when you see their eyes, if not their mouths.

9. Heeding Unknown Paths

While you’re driving, you’re careful to watch for potholes, unknown turns, and anything else that could stop you short.

Do the same when you’re stopped.

  • Holiday decorations may crowd rooms leaving less space to move. Lighting might be dimmer.
  • In restrooms, restaurants, and hotels, floors can be slippery. Furniture can be set up differently than you expect. Rugs could be like banana peels.
  • Apparently more broken bones happen in hotel bathrooms than you’d ever believe, especially for seniors or the disabled. Be sure you and Grandma get the lay of the land before she takes a bath.

It may mean simply giving her your arm, even if she doesn’t usually need it.  Or moving furniture to create a bigger path.

Setting up the party to be sure it’s enjoyable for everyone doesn’t mean you have to do something crazy. It usually just takes a little looking ahead.

10. Have Fun

Traveling with Grandma can be a hoot! And you can learn things about her you never knew.

But if she’s used to caring for everyone else’s needs, she might not tell you about her own. Be ready for any of these roadblocks.

That way you can all enjoy the trip.

Need to go on a trip that the grandparents can’t go on, but they can’t stay by themselves? Check out Frontida Senior Living and learn more about our assisted living facilities.

Check out these other helpful posts on keeping seniors physically healthy.

Thank you to Sergey Chuprin on Unsplash for the featured photo

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 5 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at