Elderly Parents Flying Alone

Parent Q&A

  • Elder plane travel for senile mother

    (6 replies)

    Anyone have experience with flying 95 year old nonstop coast to coast? Relatives to take her to airport and pick her up. I have misgivings due to her age and senility but my stepsister pushing for our mom to visit my sister. "Stepfather needs a break."

    My MIL was 86 and in the early stages of dementia when she made her last visit to our home from Chicago.  Like you, we did not feel comfortable having her get from security onto the plane or vice versa.  We bought a ticket for a family member to accompany her.  It turned out to be well worthwhile, because there was a flight delay after she checked in, and she got confused coming out of the bathroom and was heading in the wrong direction for boarding, which could have been a disaster if she'd been on her own.  I don't think "unaccompanied seniors" get the same attention as "unaccompanied minors" but they may well need that level of supervision or more.  If you don't have a family member, you may be able to find someone through word of mouth who would be grateful for a ticket in exchange for supervising.  

    My rec is that someone should fly with your mom. My enderly mom with dementia had to be accompanied by her aide to come visit her son in hospital. I don’t know what shape you mother is in physically or cognitively, but my 89 year old mom couldn’t have done it alone.  Good luck to you and your mom!

    You should have an escort to accompany her on the plane -- someone who is able to handle what may come up, whether it is the need to use the rest room or a medical need.  You shouldn't expect the flight crew to take responsibility or assist her, as that is not their job except perhaps in an emergency -- or simply depend on the kindness of other passengers if she needs help. We flew my 86 year old mother with significant medical issues (not dementia) from Florida to New Jersey last year and used a company called Advanced Air Ambulance -- they helped make the flight arrangements on a commercial flight (first class) and provided a registered nurse to accompany my mother before, during, and after the flight.  Highly recommend the company.  Two other thoughts: if you are considering this, you should have a cardiologist clear her for flight travel -- don't assume she's up for a cross-country flight.  I am sympathetic that your stepfather needs a break.  Have you looked into any local skilled nursing facilities that offer short-term respite options for patients (i.e., care for the patient; respite for the family for a week or so).  Perhaps your mom has medical insurance that may cover that; and even if not, if may cost you less than the flights and escorts.