Senior Corner: Protect your health by traveling safely with medications

Senior Corner: Protect your health by traveling safely with medications

By Amber Nightingale
(File Photo)

Too many senior citizens have found themselves in a situation like Theodore, an 83-year-old gentleman from Salem, N.Y., who began negotiating life’s challenges alone after his wife entered an assisted living facility.

She recorded and managed the fine details of his life, including his medical history and list of medications. With his vision and memory impaired, he relied on a list of dates and medications in his wallet, but often had trouble reading it.

Theodore found a solution that made it easier for him to travel with peace of mind: an online medical database that stores his personal medical information, like the free AARP Health Record (

“When I travel to visit my sister in North Carolina, or literally anywhere, my information is just a click away,” Theodore says. “I don’t have an old piece of paper in my wallet anymore; frankly, I couldn’t read it if it had been in there for any length of time.”

The health record database is free to AARP members, but here are a few other tips to help anyone protect their health — and their travel plans — while on vacation:

• Carry a personal medication record with you: Even if you use an online medical database, it’s a good idea to carry a list of the medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs. This is important if you need medical attention while away from home or your medicine gets lost or stolen.

• Pack your medication in a carry-on bag: Being separated from your luggage can be a drag — and potentially dangerous if critical medications are lost along with a suitcase. Don’t take the risk. Pack your medicine in your carry-on bag. It’s also a good idea to keep medication in the original containers. This makes it easier for security and customs officials to inspect, particularly if you are traveling internationally.

• Bring more than you need: In the event your travel plans change, it is a good idea to carry an extra week’s supply of your medications.

• Consider storage: If your medicine needs to be stored and kept cool, take a small, insulated container, such as a lunch pack, with you. You also may consider gel ice packs that can fit in your carrying case. If you have a long trip ahead of you, it is wise to ask your pharmacist to recommend the best and safest way to travel with your medications.

When you’re back home, you can take advantage of other free AARP resources to help you manage your health, including the AARP and Consumer Reports Drug Savings.
The writer is the associate state director of community outreach for AARP Virginia.