Nice and easy does it, especially with elderly fliers

December 23, 2013 12:00 pm Comments Off on Nice and easy does it, especially with elderly fliers

elderlyfliersFlorida WeeklyDownload Nice and Easy Does It article.

When planning travel for the elderly, keep the old adage “nice and easy does it” in mind. I learned this from experience when traveling with my dad on his occasional pilgrimages to Las Vegas.

Dad loved playing slot machines, and to him, Vegas was the ultimate vacation destination. The problem was that as Dad aged, 60 years of smoking and a nasty bout with TB (a souvenir of the Korean War) had given him poorly functioning lungs and COPD.

Not to be deterred by his shortness of breath, Dad relished a trip to Vegas despite the fact that traveling from Florida to Vegas requires a five-hour flight in an airline cabin pressurized to an altitude of 4,500 feet. (Think of Mile High Stadium in Denver and the visiting teams gasping from the thin air.) Basically, as air rises, gases expand, allowing less oxygen per each breath. This in turn makes breathing more difficult for people with respiratory concerns.

For healthy people, this is a minor concern. After a long flight, we may feel tired and claim to be “jet lagged.” Actually, this jet lag may be a mild case of hypoxia (depleted red blood cells) caused by extended time at the high, pressurized-cabin altitude. After a rest and some time closer to sea level, breathing the more dense air, people with healthy lungs feel better and claim to be over the jet lag. The red blood cells are re-energized by the more dense air at lower altitudes.

Flying is a much greater concern for the elderly, who may have health-related breathing difficulties. This could result in minor respiratory distress or become a major health risk. For my dad, simply taking things “nice and easy” made all the difference.

For those with more advanced medical concerns, it is best to first check with your health-care professional. Your doctor may advise you to travel with supplemental oxygen. Just one to three liters of O2 can make all the difference. Most major airlines allow the use of portable oxygen concentrators, when accompanied by a prescription signed by a doctor. Many home medical/oxygen suppliers will rent an oxygen concentrator on a weekly basis. To avoid any problems, make sure to check in advance with the airline for a list of approved equipment.

It would also be wise to consider the help and assistance of a medical escort, especially if traveling alone or with another elderly person.

If one should find themselves in need of a professional medical escort, Air Trek is always more than happy to help. We have a commercial airline medical escort service set in place to meet international and long-distance transportation needs for those who require or desire assistance onboard a commercial aircraft.

Air Trek will take care of everything, including booking airline tickets, helping with navigation through crowded airports (especially useful around the holidays), getting one to their desired destination, and any additional needs that may arise.
The elderly may enjoy traveling to see family and friends, or even a trip to Vegas. Just remember: Preplanning and “nice and easy” does it. ■

— Dana Carr is an airline transport pilot and serves as director of operations for Air Trek Inc., which is family owned and operated since 1978, and specializes in helping people travel throughou the world. Air ambulance information is available at www.medjets.com. Aircraft charter and luxury travel info is available at www.airtrek.aero.