Caring for people with mental health disabilities takes a lot of work. There’s no denying that fact. Caregivers or guardians manage their basic needs such as food and meds to make sure that their assets are well-taken care of. For one, guardianship and conservatorship duties assigned by a court entails managing finances. Guardians and conservators protect the assets of people who don’t have the mental capacity to make informed decisions. They pay their bills and even manage their investments.
But it’s important for caregivers to always remember that the lives of people with disabilities don’t revolve around their disabilities. Their everyday activities shouldn’t just be about making sure that they’re warm, well-fed, and carefully looked after by doctors. They should also get to do activities that, essentially, help them enjoy life. As caregivers, one of the things that we can do with them is travel.
Here’s how we can ensure that they are able to remain safe and enjoy traveling.
Know Their Rights
The thing about people with mental health disabilities is that they’re often bound inside their homes. A big reason is that they’re not as mobile as able-bodied individuals. They need wheelchairs or assistants to help them move around. But their disability shouldn’t keep them from traveling. Unless their doctors say otherwise, nothing should keep them from exploring other cities or even countries. As caregivers, we just need to know a few things that make sure that they’re comfortable as they travel.
First, we can look through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act provides detailed instructions for hotels, transportation services, and even cruise ships on how to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Such businesses are bound by law to comply with the guidelines.
If we’re traveling to other countries, then we need to know what their laws say about the rights of persons with disabilities. If we, as caregivers, are well-versed in these laws, then we’ll know the services that the person we’re looking after deserves.
Maintain a Routine and Deal with Their Jet Lag
Even if we’re only traveling for a short time, we need to ensure that our patients are able to maintain a sense of routine and stability. Staying in a hotel would take a toll on their mental health. It’s unfamiliar, they may not feel comfortable. It may not even have a homey feel to it that many patients heavily rely on.
Make sure that they get up in the morning and go to bed at night around the same time as they do when they are at home. Traveling overseas may be harder though because of the change in time zones. Researchers believe that people who suffer from serious mental health illnesses have a very hard time dealing with jet lag. This is because their circadian rhythms may be already altered. So subjecting them to jet lag would make things worse.
But there are ways to help them manage their jet lag. For one, consult a doctor about allowing patients to take melatonin before going to bed. This medication will help them adjust their sleep patterns.
Always Ask About What They Want
As caregivers, we get so used to our duties and routine with our patients. We know their sleep schedule and activities like the back of our hands. We can read their mood. We know what makes them tick and what triggers an episode for them. These are good things because they make us better caregivers for them. But the downside is that we often forget to ask about what they’re feeling about the things that they do.
This is important when we’re traveling with them. Seeing sights, enjoying food, and getting souvenirs are very enjoyable things that they don’t usually do. So we wouldn’t know yet how they feel about them. For example, they may not be interested in trying out different cuisines. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t force them. On the other hand, they might enjoy visiting art museums. They might find certain works of art fascinating so they would love to enjoy just looking at them. If that’s the case, then we should support their interest with them.
The whole point of traveling for leisure is that they get to enjoy themselves. It’s not worth it to stress them out about things that they may not be interested in.
As we all know, traveling with people who have mental health disabilities is never easy. But just because it’s such a hassle, that doesn’t mean we should prohibit them from seeing the world. As their caregivers, we just need to make adjustments, ensure that they’re comfortable, and that they’re not stressed out. If all those things are accomplished, then we should all be able to enjoy ourselves as we travel.