Traveling with Parkinson's Disease

Home modifications by occupational therapist (OT) based on principles of universal design and accessibility.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

Drinking lemonade by the pool

My mom has Parkinson's Disease, but that is not going to stop us from anything.  There was a family gathering in Las Vegas so we decided to go.  We live in Michigan, so we needed to travel.

This is what we learned from our travels:

  • Wheelchairs are awesome, especially in the airport.  They let you fly by security.
  • Bring a sweater.  Dress in layers!!!  
  • Check your luggage.
  • Sit by the bathroom in the plane and on the bus.
  • Use the bathroom on the flight when they announce the descent.
  • Take two sets of meds, one in suitcase and one in carry-on.
  • It's very difficult to manage medications with a time change.
  • Take lots of rest breaks throughout the day at the destination.
  • Bring a wheelchair during parts of the day when blood pressure tends to drop.
  • When ordering an Uber with a wheelchair, get the big one.
  • Accept help in the airport when people offer to assist.
  • Play the poker machines.
  • Bring a bathing suit, just in case.
  • When eating out a lot, you consume mass amounts of sodium, which assists in maintaining higher blood pressure.
  • I love to travel with my momma.:-)

Here's our travel story:

We booked a direct flight from Chicago to Las Vegas, and we learned a lot.  Our goals for travel were to keep things simple and convenient.  We borrowed a wheelchair from the local Senior Services.

My mom never uses a wheelchair but does have mobility issues including freezing and sudden drops in blood pressure in the mornings, which causes fainting.  The wheelchair took those issues off the table for travel.

We flew out of Chicago.  The thought of parking, then taking the shuttle to the airport sounded like a little much.  So we took a bus directly to the airport.  I dropped my mom off at the bus station with the luggage and parked the car.  Then we took a long bus ride to Chicago, where we were dropped off at the airport.

Mom at the bus station, we didn't pack light.:-)
We had arranged in advance with Spirit Airlines to have a wheelchair, which was very easy.  When booking the ticket, there was an option for wheelchair assistance.


There was a 'handicap' aisle at the ticket counter, so we skipped the line and walked right up to the counter.  The person at the counter checked us in and had us sit down until someone came with a wheelchair to take us to the gate.

Then it was absolutely beautiful.  The Spirit Airlines employee took us past the long line at airport security right up to the front.  My mom didn't have to take off her shoes but they did ask her to stand up to go through the machine.  Big caution here!  The person pushing the wheelchair did not know to lock the wheelchair or move the footrests before asking my mom to stand up.  Fortunately, my mom did not fall.

Security line, we did not wait in.

After security they rolled us to the gate, easy peasy.  Big shout out to Spirit Airlines for being awesome!!

On the way to Las Vegas we sat in the middle of the plane and there was some turbulence.  It was a long way for my mom to walk to the bathroom with the plane bouncing around.  I highly recommend booking seats near the bathrooms.

We landed in Las Vegas and they had our wheelchair waiting for us.  My mom hopped in and off we went.  We grabbed a cab to the hotel and all was well.

We did have a couple of mishaps in Las Vegas.  When we first arrived my mom's blood pressure was out of control causing her to faint.  We tried our best to manage but she did faint twice. When she fainted it was in front of relatives, which really upset them.  Don't expect people to understand, but love them anyway.

We had difficulty managing my mom's medications with the time change (3 hours difference).  What we did have in our favor was the food was so loaded with sodium that after a day or so my mom had no trouble keeping her blood pressure in a good range.  I, on the other hand, got a bit bloated.:-)

We took lots of rest breaks while we were in Vegas and when my mom felt weak we used the wheelchair.


We had a wonderful time. 

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