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Vacation Planning Tips for Family Caregivers

May 6, 2024
Family on the beach, holding hands and jumping with the sun setting

If you are caring for an aging or ill loved one, the idea of a camping trip, cottage vacation or journey abroad can feel impossible with so much responsibility at home. While caregiving can be very meaningful and rewarding, many caregivers also experience high levels of stress, depression and burnout. Prioritizing time to rest and recharge, including taking vacations when possible, will make sure your needs are met and improve the quality of care you’re able to provide. Although it can be challenging, read on for some tips to help you plan and actually enjoy some much-needed time away.

Plan Ahead

Vacations as a caregiver do require some planning and strategy. Starting well in advance to ensure that your loved one’s care needs are met and they are safe and comfortable will give you more peace of mind during your time away. Depending on your situation, it may be helpful to let your loved one know about your plans as soon as they are in place. That can help them prepare for your absence and the change in routine. If your loved one is living with dementia, this may need to be a regular conversation leading up to your departure.

Arrange Care

The most important step for ensuring your loved one’s needs are met while you travel is to decide who will provide care while you’re away. This could be a sibling, family friend, neighbour or a paid caregiver and will depend on whether you need daily visits or around-the-clock support. Bringing in a family member or friend can be a good way to keep them in the loop about your loved one’s health and give them a greater understanding of what you do every day, if they are also able to provide appropriate care. Organize a trial run before you leave so they can practice what they’ve learned with you close by.

Organize Documents     

Preparing for a vacation is a great opportunity to set up a system that you can use for future getaways. Consolidate contact information for healthcare providers—including after-hours or walk-in clinics, a list of over-the-counter and prescription medication and other important documents like extended benefit plans in one accessible place. A paper or dry-erase calendar that lists all appointments and events can also be helpful, especially if multiple caregivers will be stepping in. This will ensure that substitute caregivers have all the necessary information and reduce the likelihood that they will need to contact you during your time away.

Create a Care Plan

To help prevent dangerous medication errors or unsafe care practices, clearly outline the steps involved in your loved one’s day. This should include, morning and nighttime routines, bathing and grooming processes, dietary preferences, medication management and other important activities. Provide the caregiver with medication reminders and place medications in a weekly pill organizer. Consider using pictures to confirm things like the placement of medical devices, bedtime positioning or safe food textures. You may want to create a log book for the caregiver to document any issues such as pain, difficulty swallowing or mood or memory changes that occur when you’re away.

Stay Connected, with Boundaries   

Although the purpose of a vacation is to relax and unwind, you may feel more at ease if you receive regular updates on your loved one’s wellbeing. Set expectations around how much you want to know, how often you want to check in and if you will be available if substitute caregivers have any questions. If you only want to be contacted in an emergency, clearly outline what you consider a crisis.

Let Go

After all of your careful planning and arrangements are made, try your very best to relax and enjoy your vacation. You have done everything you can to ensure your loved one’s wellbeing in your absence and it’s now out of your hands. And having a wonderful time and coming back rested and recharged will be good for you and for your loved one.

If you need extra support, VHA’s Enterprise Health Solutions team may be able to help. Services for purchase include: foot care, nursing and rehabilitation services, palliative care, personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, companionship and escorting to appointments. Call VHA’s Enterprise Health Solutions team at (416) 489-2500 ext. 4649 or email

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