How we prepared for a family vacation
- My mother has Parkinson’s disease, so to prepare for our first big family road trip, we first started by taking short trips around town.
- This experimentation has boosted my confidence and that of my mother while establishing a foundation of comfort.
- My mom told me she was still nervous about traveling, but it felt good to hang out with her family.
To prepare for our first family vacation after my mother’s Parkinson’s disease progressed considerably, we started small.
My mother developed the first signs of Parkinson’s about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until after a series of falls in early 2021 that her mobility was significantly challenged. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that can lead to tremors and impaired motor function.
Until a few years ago, she traveled alone to visit me in New York at least once a year. After landing at LaGuardia Airport, she took a bus to Harlem, navigated several subway lines, then walked to my apartment with her suitcase — all by herself.
Suddenly unable to walk unaided after her fall and now in need of accessible accommodation that she hadn’t considered just a year earlier, we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to include her in our family’s holiday.
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My mother had only been discharged from rehab a few months before our planned summer trip to Indianapolis, and I had just temporarily moved to Milwaukee to help her adjust to the higher level of care she now needed at home. home. Theoretically, she liked the idea of joining me, my sister, her husband and their two children on vacation but, understandably, she had a lot of anxiety about the trip.
Working up to a big trip
To prepare for our first big family road trip, we first started by taking short trips around town.
Our local adventures included meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant, attending a jazz concert in the park, and celebrating my niece’s fifth birthday at a nearby playground. These experiences allowed us to experience its level of comfort using a walker, trying out public restrooms, and navigating the rough terrain of dirt, rock, grass, and woodchips in the outdoor spaces.
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This experience not only boosted my confidence and that of my mother, but it also established a baseline for what she was and was not comfortable with, the obstacles we should be aware of during the journey and the accommodations we should request.
We learned that we needed a fully handicapped accessible hotel room, accessible bathrooms at each attraction, and a wheelchair for any activity that required more than a few minutes of walking.
We decided that our first big vacation would be a road trip to Indianapolis because it was within driving distance of my mom’s house, so she could use accessible bathrooms at travel centers instead. to struggle with tiny airplane bathrooms. We also chose Indianapolis because the city’s accessibility guide made it easy to find activities the whole family could enjoy together.
“I didn’t feel like I missed anything”
As a brand new carer, I was learning – and still learning – what accommodations exist for travelers with disabilities. Before our trip, I therefore called the bed and breakfast to confirm that the accessible room had a walk-in shower and grab bars throughout. The bathroom.
I also confirmed that all the museums we hoped to visit provided wheelchairs, which was necessary as the wheelchair we ordered when my mother was in rehab had been out of stock for several months.
Together, we visited the famous Van Gogh exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, we explored the Madame CJ Walker exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society, and my mother got to see her grandchildren having fun like crazy at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest in the country.
“I liked things that I didn’t think I would like,” my mother told me after the trip. “And I didn’t feel like I missed anything!”
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This summer our family will be heading back to Indiana, visiting our favorite places in Indianapolis and adding a new city, Bloomington, to try all new experiences. My mom told me she was always nervous about traveling, but it was good to be with her family the last time she was really looking forward to leaving.
“As a kid, I loved traveling with my parents and grandparents and now I’m the grandparent who travels with my kids and their kids,” she said. “I hope my grandmother enjoyed traveling with me as much as I enjoy traveling with my grandchildren.”
Cassandra Brooklyn is a freelance writer specializing in travel, culture and all things outdoors. She is also the founder of EscapingNY, a travel consultancy specializing in off-the-beaten-track travel around the world. You can follow her on Twitter @escapingnewyork.