Top 10 Tips for The Traveling Caregiver

If you’re traveling with a friend or loved one on their trip to receive care at Mayo Clinic, thank you. It is extremely generous to help someone on their health journey. We know traveling for medical care can not only be overwhelming for patients but for  caregivers as well. You have an important and sometimes challenging role to provide emotional, logistical, and physical support. As your trip nears, you may have questions about how to make traveling as easy and manageable as possible. We hope these tips and resources help you feel prepared for the journey ahead.

 

Person packing suitcase on bed

1. Pack everything you’ll need with this checklist.

Your suitcase is your toolkit. Fill it with these essentials to help make your trip to Mayo Clinic as comfortable as it can be:

  • Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, plus a robe or sweater.
  • If it’s winter: bring your warmest coat, hat, and gloves. If it’s summer: sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat.
  • Comfortable, sturdy walking shoes, and slippers. Consider elastic laces or slip-ons.
  • Personal care products and toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, comb, toothbrush, shaving equipment, and lotion.
  • Personal assistive devices like eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, canes, walkers, or crutches. Remember to bring cases for these items as well.
  • If you're taking daily medications, make sure to bring your prescriptions.
  • Pillow, blanket or personal items to help you get the rest you need.
  • Nonperishable snacks.
  • Pen and paper, for notes and questions.
  • Earplugs, earphones, and playlists of your favorite tunes.
  • Chargers for phone, tablets, ereaders, or other electronic devices.
  • Books, magazines, playing cards or games to help pass the time. Mayo Clinic offers free Wi-Fi.
  • For patients, bring a few comfort items, such as personal photos or a favorite movie.

 

2. Have your friend or loved one’s medical information on hand.

In order to deliver the best care possible, it is important to have your loved one's medical documents, history, and registration available, including:

  • A folder or binder to help you keep relevant paperwork organized and accessible.
  • Registration forms or medical records, reports, and radiology images that were requested by your loved one’s care team and have not already been sent. If they already have access to Mayo Clinic's Patient Portal, it can be used to communicate with your care team.
  • A list of medications (prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements) including doses and why they take them. You can also bring the original bottles to their first appointment or bring photos of the labels.
  • Their insurance information or Medicare card, if they have one.
  • Their prescription drug insurance card and preferred pharmacy name and address.
  • A copy of their living will or advance health directive, so it can be placed in their medical record.
  • Any Mayo Clinic documents they have received.
  • A mobile device with the Mayo Clinic app, so you have easy access to their appointment itineraries, maps, and eCheck-in for some appointments.

 

Woman with dyed hair meditating at a lake

3. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

During your travels, it’s normal to experience overwhelming emotions. When you notice heightened emotions coming on, take a second to breathe. Deep breathing, from all the way down in your belly, is called diaphragmatic breathing and is proven to slow your heartbeat, lower your blood pressure, and reduce stress. Be mindful of negative thoughts and try to notice them without judgment or shame. Redirect these thoughts by repeating affirmations to yourself that highlight the compassion and value of your caregiving. It's important to show yourself compassion, too.

 

4. Shake it out.

Exercise releases endorphins that can reduce stress. If you have the opportunity during your travels, take a walk, hit the gym, get up and stretch, or take an online yoga or fitness class from your hotel. While traveling to Mayo Clinic, walking up and down the aisle during your flight is an easy way to get exercise.

 

5. Drink more water.

We can’t overstate the importance of hydration. Being well-hydrated improves sleep, brain functioning, and mood. Airline cabins tend to be dry, so drinking more water is extremely important while flying. Plus, if your loved one is traveling post-surgery, staying hydrated decreases the risk of developing blood clots.

 

6. Get the lay of the land by talking to a Mayo Clinic concierge.

If you’ve never been to Rochester, you may be looking for recommendations. Mayo Clinic’s free concierge services are dedicated to making your visit easier. These local experts can:

  • Access and navigate your friend or loved one’s Patient Online Services account.
  • Narrow your hotel options based on your budget and individual needs.
  • Recommend restaurants personalized to location, preferences, or diet.
  • Get directions to and around Mayo Clinic.
  • Find area businesses you need, like grocery stores, banks, shopping centers, gift shops, medical supply stores, salons, and more.
  • Explore area attractions and recreation options, like parks, theaters, sporting events, tours, and art offerings.
  • Find child, pet, and adult custodial care.
  • Notarize documents.

In person: Concierge Services desk

Mayo Building (lobby level, in the International Center)

Monday–Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No appointment necessary

By phone: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday–Friday: 507-538-8438

Email: concierge@mayo.edu

Online: Request Concierge Services

 

7. Let Patient Travel Services plan your trip for you.

Take the stress of planning off your shoulders. Mayo Clinic offers Patient Travel Services, a free service that offers assistance with travel arrangements for patients and their families.

  • Book flexible flights: secure discounts and accommodate needs ($25 fee per reservation, up to $50 for a family).
  • Get transportation to appointments: ground transportation, including airport shuttles, limo service, private chauffeurs, vans with wheelchair accessibility or car rental reservations.
  • Stay at patient-friendly hotels: clean, safe hotels close to the Mayo Clinic campus with accessibility needs such as seat risers, shower chairs, and hospital beds.
  • Request special accommodations: wheelchair, secure oxygen or accommodations for a service animal.

Call toll-free: 866-551-3392. International: 720-956-6055 or click here to fill out a request form.

 

8. Enlist the help of friends and family.

As a caregiver, you don’t have to do it alone. When people offer to help you, say yes. While you and your loved one are traveling, ask people to help with tasks such as laundry, dinner, cleaning, or picking something up from a store. Connect with other caregivers, support groups, or in-home services. Check out Mayo Clinic’s online community board, where caregivers can ask questions, share their stories, hear helpful tips about traveling, and more. During your travels, be sure to stay connected to friends and family who can emotionally support you from afar.

 

9. Take care of you, too.

We know it’s important to care for your friend or loved one, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Practice self-care by eating healthy, taking a walk, doing a hobby you love, listening to music, texting a friend for support, and being kind to yourself throughout your journey.

 

Portrait of old mother with cancer and her middle aged daughter

10. Move forward with confidence and compassion.

Remember that no one is a perfect caregiver and that you are doing your best juggling all the details and emotions for not only yourself, but your friend or loved one as well. It’s not easy to help someone going through a serious health issue and at times, it may feel overwhelming. Remember that you are a strong person for being someone they can count on during this time. You have done your research and you are prepared. Thanks to you, your friend or loved one will get the care they deserve — the care that will help them live their best, and healthiest life.

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