No. I'm not the one needing a caregiver, yet. hmmp. But I played caregiver (more like care diva) to my folks as we traveled this holy week. They are in their mid-70s. And not as strong as they used to be. The first time we took a flight together was to Davao last year. Since that was a short flight and a short trip, it didnt get me worried at all. Besides, I knew that Davao is so friendly a place.
But this trip was going to be different. I was anticipating a lot of stress on the 17hr flight. There was even a 2.5hr layover. It was just last December when I went to Toronto, and the month before, to Cape Town-Dubai. I was just alone yet I got so worked up over the trip. What to do on the long flight. How do I make sure I minimize jet lag. (and that turned out to be one huge crisis!). So having two senior citizens to take care of was like an exponential increase in stress levels. How do I keep them preoccupied? What if they need to be always use the bathroom? What if they get restless? Knowing how slow they walk, would we make it on time to the connecting flight? The anxiety was mounting as the trip drew near.
But surprisingly, and thankfully, none of my worries became real. On the contrary, we were treated preferentially because of the senior citizens I was accompanying. I arranged for wheelchairs for them. And that literally opened doors not just in NAIA but in all other airports. They zipped through immigration, customs every time! And that included me, the care diva! All the flight attendants were gracious and helpful.
Of course, it also had a lot to do with my own folks' attitude. They really are both very nice, warm and accommodating. They never felt 'entitled'. There would always be a "thank you" for each service extended. And they chatted with whomever was accompanying them or pushing their wheelchairs. And even to me. They were never whiners. They would never inconvenience their own children for their sake. I am truly lucky and blessed. (p.s. I had an additional challenge since my mom is also physically challenged.)
So to us who eventually take care of our folks in their old age, be delighted with the perks and benefits of traveling with Senior Citizens. You will cherish them more.
I leave with some lessons for you who will be travelling with your parents soon. Give advance notice to the airlines for their special needs (wheelchairs, meals, access to lavatories). Bring loose change as tip to those who help you and your parents. Your generosity will always be appreciated. Yet be prepared to do things all by yourself (carrying their luggage, or at least getting these from and to the pushcarts). Ask ahead for special lanes for the elderly. Or even special discounts. Plan out your seats, your walking time, your waiting time.
A friend of mine told me that among the Ten Commandments, only the one on honoring your father and mother carried with it a promise from God. A promise of long life. Who would have thought that there were so many benefits to be enjoyed in the here and now for taking care of them?
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