Taking Grandma back home - Next month!

Old Feb 29th, 2000, 04:29 PM
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Taking Grandma back home - Next month!

I posted a while back about taking my Grandma back to Germany to find the places where she grew up. We leave in less than a month and I have a few more questions. I have arranged for assistance at the airport (we fly in and out of Charles de Gaulle on British Airways), and I have arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport. We will take the train to Germany and Austria, I am a little concerned about the daunting task of getting myself, Gram, and our luggage on and off trains, to and from metro stations, etc. Basically, I guess I am asking if anyone has experience traveling with someone who requires assistance. Other than traveling light (we covered that), does anyone have any advice or suggestions? (Or reassurance!!)Thanks so much!

Old Feb 29th, 2000, 06:44 PM
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This is a great question, and I hope it draws a lot of input - - as I think it will be more and more relevant over the near future. Although I am a "semi-regular" here (somewhat recent - - about 4 months), I never saw your original question.

My experience is very limited. I am 46 yrs old and I recently took my 86 yr old grandmother to NYC - - partly as a "trial run" to see if taking her to London or Paris might be realistic. It was a great experience (though both of us now believe that the answer is NO).

As you already have anticipated, airports are the easiest part of your trip. Some train stations (for example, Brussels, I remember very vividly) still have (I hope this is current) porters who will carry all your luggage and get you both right to your seat. And of curse, you need to use cabs LIBERALLY.

I found out that my grandmother basically can NOT walk more than about 200-300 yards. What surprised me was that she exhibited no "cardiorespiratory" signs of fatigue - - she just got all "rubber-legs" - - the same as you or I might get after running beyond our limit. I think you need to be prepared to support her ENTIRE weight, until you can get her seated if your grandmother has pushed herself beyond her limits (perhaps even unknowingly).

Everyone knows to beware of stairs but escalators can also be a bad place for anyone unfirm also - - try to always use elevators instead - - escalators can present a crush of oncoming riders who cannot stop themselves from slamming into someone unfirm at the end of the escalator.

I hope that you are staying a few days in Paris before moving on. Remember that sleep deprivation causes almost symptoms of depression in some people and may be more notiecable in the elderly.

I actually envy you this trip. In Paris, consider taking her to the top of La Grande Arche (not the Arc de Triomphe) - - great view and hardly any walking - - good elevators and good connection directly to the metro stop.

Feel free to write me directly to talk more about your specific destinations. I'll be in Germany and Austria myself Mar 27-April 3. Heck, I'd be glad to buy you each a beer!

Best wishes,

Rex Bickers
Westerville, Ohio
Old Feb 29th, 2000, 09:43 PM
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No personal experience here, but the Deutsche Bahn website (www.bahn.de) says to look for employees wearing the red caps at the major stations -- they are there to help those requiring assistance. You can also book the "Mobilitätsservice", which helps people with wheelchairs, etc., in advance at the station you'll be at or by calling ahead to 01805-512512.

I hope this helps.
Old Feb 29th, 2000, 10:23 PM
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Yeah, the key word is "major" station. We travelled alot on train in Germany last summer. I did not see many employees once we were away from "major" stations. I know there was someone at the station locked somewhere since we heard announcements. But in country sides, all I saw were platforms with no employees and ticket dispensers with instructions in German only. I saw elevators at "major" stations only. Medium size stations had ramps to the platform, while the smallest only have stairs.

Even for able bodied, the train changes in Germany were stressful, since they only give perhaps 6 minutes to change the train and trains were often late in arriving, so even less time to change trains.

If mobility is a problem, reduce the train change hassles if you can. For very tight changes, I always asked the conductor (who would guarantee to check your ticket) which track the train was arriving, which track the next train departed so we did not have to rush to look up the yellow departure sheet, sometimes with amendments next to it. Only major train stations have digital display showing the number of the arriving trains and their destinations.

The ubiquitous German local trains had pretty stiff doors. My daugher had to give a good umph to operate them.
Old Mar 1st, 2000, 02:43 PM
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My husband and I are mid-70's and travel a lot each pulling one wheeled bag with a small duffel on the handle. He carries passports and money in a concealed front pocket, and I have tickets and small bills in a "wallet on a string" purse across the front of my body. We each have a free hand for train & stair rails. We both walk well, but a month before we go we try to walk a mile or more each day. We also allow a lot of extra time - no more rushing for the train. Have Fun - if Grandma thinks she can do it, she probably can.
Old Mar 1st, 2000, 03:23 PM
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Took the female parental unit to Paris a couple of years ago.
1)Plan on resting a lot and not getting as much done as you would with someone who has more stamina. Rex's observation on the length of a walk is about right (at least in Paris there are walls and benches every few feet so Mom could stop as needed).
2)Hydration! Along with no sleep, no water can really put a strain on the seniors. Make sure you either carry water with you or stop frequently at cafes and restaurants. Make sure she drinks!
3)Food. Seniors often times have little tolerance for odd food (they may be eating things like boiled chicken and mashed potatoes at home, then come up against viener schnitzel and have some gastrointestinal upset)so find out what Grandma is used to eating. They often eat smaller amounts and more frequently; make sure you take that into account and plan accordingly. Small town restaurants often close after lunch and don't reopen until dinner. You may have to carry snacks with you, or make a picnic from store-bought food.
4)Make sure the hotels have elevators, or that the b&b rooms are not on the third floor.
5)She's probably taking medication; make sure it's easy to get at (might not be a bad idea to split it between the two of you so if she forgets her purse, you've got enough to get her through the day) and you've got the prescriptions.
6)I've never seen those non-slip flower things in any European bathtub or shower stall. I can't remember where I read about it, but there's some sort of travel bathtub mat that adds traction.
7)Ok YOU can squat over a toilet, but she can't. Clorox and Mr Clean make disinfectant wipes, perfect for cleaning that toilet seat so she can sit.
8)Don't deal with subways and luggage; splurge on a cab. It will save such wear and tear it'll be worth the GDM or ff. Mom did fine with the Metro when we were sightseeing; with luggage (and she and I each had a 21" pilot's case and small totebag), not so hot.

Last, but not least, you will have to have time for yourself to recharge the batteries. Grandma will want to take a nap some afternoon, or get back to her room right after dinner to read...take that opportunity to go OUT...for a walk, or to visit a museum, or just to sit in a cafe and relax. This will avoid the finger marks around Grandma's neck...
Old Mar 2nd, 2000, 10:21 AM
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Thanks for the great suggestions. I am embarrassed to say that most of them were things that I hadn't even considered. (Particularly the disinfectant wipes, Elvira, what a great idea!) I am going to print out your posts and take them with us.

I forgot to ask about the Louvre in my original question. This is the only thing that I know she will definitely want to see in Paris (she has been to Paris before, but not the Louvre). Is it possible to rent a wheelchair, or maybe there is a tour that is short but sweet? This forum is so great, I have learned so much from all of you, Thanks!

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