Caring for Elderly Parents While You Travel (Without Feeling Guilty!)

Caring for elderly parents is a big family responsibility. After all, your parents cared for and loved you as a child–and now is your chance to reciprocate in full. Now that you’re finally empty-nesting, does that mean you can’t travel? Absolutely not. What it means is that when you travel, you plan ahead with these solutions for your parents care and keeping while you’re away.

How do you combine traveling with your family responsibilities? See our suggestions, below.

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CONTENTS: In this article, we invite you to consider the best ways of caring for your elderly parents while you travel. Here are some helpful solutions you may want to try:

Before we get into these suggestions, let’s first look at whether you should travel and leave your parents home.

Should You Travel When You Have Aging Parents at Home?

2020 has taught the world a lot, including how important it is to seize the day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to get to your bucket list of destinations, but when–and only when–you feel you can safely traveling again. It’s not until something (like travel) is taken away that we realize just how important it is to us.

Another lesson the health crisis has shown people is the need to stay in touch with loved ones, near and far. Not being able to visit friends and family in person is heartbreaking. This is another reason why most of us will never take travel for granted again.

I can speak to that personally, as my adult daughter lives on the US west coast. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go sight-seeing in Los Angeles with her again in the not-too-distant future. When the time is right.

But once it is safe to travel again, how do you leave aging parents at home while you visit adult children or even take a much-needed couples vacation–without the guilt?

Thankfully, there are always solutions.

But you must evaluate their suitability to your circumstances before making any decisions when it comes to travel and family responsibilities.

Once you decide which of these ideas provide loving support to your elderly parents while you’re away, you can let go of the guilt knowing they are in good hands–and that you’ll be return soon enough.

Now, let’s talk about some possible solutions.

Plan With Your Siblings

Having brothers and sisters is a gift in many ways, especially if they are older and you can learn from the paths they take.

The best part about your siblings is that they will always be there for you when you need help. As a result, not only can you count on them to protect your property while you’re on vacation, but you can ask them to cover your back while you’re away.

Remember, you share responsibility for caring for your aging parents.

Still, you shouldn’t take anything for granted.

After all, there is nothing more annoying than someone who passes off their responsibilities without asking first.

Planning with your siblings is an excellent way to ensure everyone is on the same page. All you have to do is explain the situation and get their commitment to help. You don’t need their permission, but getting their stamp of approval can alleviate a lot of self-induced pressure.

You can show your appreciating by saying that you’ll pick up the slack when you’re back, giving them more free time to spend with their families.

Ask Other Family Members to Help

If you don’t have siblings, or your siblings have a limited ability to help, look to other family members.

It can be an aunt, uncle, or cousin, or in-law.

As long as it’s someone you can put your trust in who has a genuine interest in your aging parents’ well-being and a good relationship with them.

Arrange for Special Visitors & Activities

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As much as you’re looking forward to traveling, give your aging parent something to look forward to.

Special visitors, like your adult children, nieces, and nephews, might be well-received and help spread the responsibility for checking in on Gram.

You can even suggest some ideas to bridge age-gaps or waning conversations.

For example:

  • Learn to make a family dish and have dinner together
  • Catch up on recent achievements
  • Talk about family history or “what it was like when…”
  • Bring supplies for a special DIY project, like making a scrapbook out of old family photos
  • Offer to help with household chores and small repairs
  • Take your parent out for a scenic drive or a short walk, health permitting

While these visits don’t need to be limited to the times you’re away, initiating them now might lead future visits and beloved memories.

Give Trusted Neighbors a Heads Up

If your aging parents live alone, it’s a good idea to let their trusted neighbors know you won’t be visiting and would welcome an extra pair of eyes on the property.

A neighbor who brings his own trashcans in might not mind bringing them in for your folks while you’re away.

The friendly mom next door might not mind stopping in to say hello and see if your parents need anything at the market.

Likewise, the neighborhood kid who’s looking to make a few bucks shoveling walkways might gladly do so on this occasion.

Just be sure to remember their kindness when you return from vacation with a small gesture of thanks, like a gift card or a thoughtful souvenir from your travels.

Outsource Certain Services

If you aren’t able to ask family and neighbors to help care for your parents, you can still find a way to take a a trip while your parents are at home alone. That’s where outsourcing comes in.

Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or companionship, you can hire reputable people and businesses to lend a hand in your absence. One option to help with food is senior meal delivery, while a cleaner will maintain a clean and sanitized household for your aging parent.

There are of course more dedicated services that you can invest in such as home care assistance, encompassing a variety of different responsibilities and activities to keep your elderly parents happy and healthy while you are away.

Enlisting the help of a dedicated, experienced home care assistant will help to provide you with ultimate peace of mind. That way, you can rest easy knowing that your parents are in great hands during your globe trotting adventures. 

The Importance of Social Interactions for Elderly

You can also seek out a social service to keep your elderly parents in the loop and limit isolation while you’re on vacation. Remember that for you loved one, finding the energy or opportunity to get out there and converse with different people isn’t always easy.

You can enlist the help of phone-based services as well. They will call up your parents and check in on them on a regular basis. Or, hire out in-person visits for friendly faces who can pop round for a cup of tea and a chat.

Socialization is invaluable as you age. Without you there to talk to, your elderly parents will need some extra support to keep their minds working well.

These services take the pressure off your elderly loved ones for the short term. They also help assure you that they’re taken care of while you’re away.

Be sure to read reviews and comments left by other families when you seek out extra support. You don’t want to put your trust in someone without the skills or patience to look after your elderly parents. Seek out the best rated options that will match your standards.

Don’t worry, when you get back, you can resume your duties by helping with the chores. Plus, you’ll have a lot to catch up on over dinner.

Stay In Touch

Remaining in touch with your family shows you are still thinking about them while you’re away.

One of the most appreciated resources you can give to your parents is your time.

Maybe you can’t do it in-person with the geographical boundaries in the way while traveling, but you can pick up the phone while you’re away.

Remaining in touch with your family shows you are still thinking about them. Also, it brightens up the days when they haven’t left the house and haven’t spoken to anyone else in isolation. If you are traveling internationally, many mobile phone plans allow you to pay a one-time fee for unlimited talk, text, and data overseas. It’s a small investment to be able to keep in touch.

With video-calling software, it’s almost as if you’re in the room. Your parents might be technologically challenged, but you can teach them how to use a smartphone or tablet before leaving. In fact, you might be surprised how willing they are to learn if it means they’ll hear from you!

Then, your bond will remain, regardless of how long you are on the road. Remember that as parents themselves, they want you to go and experience faraway cultures and customs. You only get one life, and you should live it to the fullest. Send them videos and pictures so they get to experience it with you!

Take Them With You

The memories you make traveling together are ones that will last forever.

Finally, there is nothing that says your parents have to stay at home.

When there is nobody else to help you, it’s tempting to assume that traveling is off the agenda. However, the power of traveling is potent, and it will boost your mom’s and dad’s mental health, as well as their physical wellbeing. Plus, inviting them along will create treasured memories together.

A few simple ground rules will make the trip smoother, such as having separate rooms and planning in some time where you can explore a bit more ambitiously while they relax back at the hotel. Remember, with any travel partner, it’s important to compromise and understand you may have different ideas of a good time.

But your connection after you’ve spent time traveling together (like our family trip to Nova Scotia) will only flourish, and the memories you make are ones that will last forever. 

Final Thought on Caring for Elderly Parents While You Travel  

You can see that there are very good options that allow you to combine travel with your family responsibilities.

So, go ahead and give yourself permission.

Let go of the guilt.

Make your travel plans including arrangements for your parents’ care–or invite them along, if they are well-enough and would like to go.

Then you can fully enjoy a much-deserved trip knowing your parents are safe and sound.

Now that you have some good ideas about caring for elderly parents while you travel, your next step might be to protect your home while you’re away. Two easy ways are to put your lights on a timer system, and avoid posting on social media. To learn about the other 7 powerful ways you can protect your home while you’re on vacation, click here.

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Photo credits:  Photographer in Italy – SplitShire, Woman on telephone – Sabine van Erp (Pixabay); Cooking, Hug – Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels).


This article is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.