Did you know hospice patients can travel? You can fulfill last wishes or attend a family wedding, graduation, or special celebration. You can make plans to revisit a favorite vacation spot or experience a bucket-list destination. Hospice doesn’t take a vacation, and in fulfilling its mission to provide quality of life for patients with terminal illness, travel is possible.

It may seem overwhelming to leave home on an extended trip while on hospice, but that’s where your hospice team jumps into action. And, Medicare hospice benefits offer coverage for transfering providers for short-term care away from home.

Read these common concerns about traveling while on hospice — and some helpful travel tips to put your mind at ease.

Objection 1: I don’t want the event to be about me.

Truth: Most likely, your loved ones want these precious memories to include you. How special will it be for them to look back and remember your sacrifice to attend? It’s easy to be self-conscious, but don’t worry if you require extra help or attention. The event will still focus on the honored individuals, and you’ll be there to join in the celebration at whatever capacity you’re able.

Objection 2: It’s so much work to travel with medications, medical equipment, etc.

Truth: It is work, but the hospice team provides a depth of services to help you travel. They  help get your supplies together before you leave and/or at your destination. The provider creates a plan and gets your caregiver (who’s traveling with you) trained and ready. Plus, your managing hospice provider identifies and selects a Medicare-certified contracted provider at your destination. Both providers inform their business offices of the transfer and take care of Medicare billing. Remember to allow ample time in advance of your travel dates for coordination. The results make vacation worth the work: seeing beautiful sites, connecting with loved ones, and creating happy memories that lift the spirit.

Objection 3: The contracted hospice provider doesn’t know me.

Truth: Your file and clinical needs will be thoroughly communicated by your managing hospice provider to a contracted hospice provider for temporary care. Depending on the length of your visit and health needs, you could receive hospice nurse visits while out of town. A contracted hospice provider at your destination means your family caregiver has a local resource should any issues arise (medications, visits, on-call support).

Objection 4: I’m afraid I’ll be overwhelmed with all the people or attention.

Truth: Be realistic, especially if you haven’t been in public or around crowds since you’ve been on hospice. Plan plenty of time for travel, whether flying or driving. Arrange for needed medical accommodations, like early boarding and airport transportation or extra stops on road trips. Be flexible and account for lots of breaks. If you’re at an event, don’t feel guilty about needing time to rest away from the crowd for a little bit.

Objection 5: I’m worried about medical accommodations, pain management, and if I’ll be comfortable enough to sleep or rest.

Truth: Get as much information as you can about the venue and living/sleeping arrangements. Do you need a place that’s accessible for a wheelchair or other assistive devices? Are there ample plug-ins for equipment and a refrigerator for medications? Are there climate considerations, like adequate heat and air conditioning? 

As mentioned above, your hospice team will anticipate and provide medications, comfort measures, pain control, and needed equipment for symptom management for the duration of your trip. This could include getting needed medical equipment delivered once you reach your destination and 24-hour pharmacy information. Make sure you keep medications in your carry-on bag if you’re flying.

Objection 6: What if we need to cancel travel plans?

Truth: If you’re flying or booking accommodations, it may be wise to purchase travel insurance. Be flexible and willing to change your plans if the patient’s health necessitates it. Please note that some conditions, like late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia, have strict criteria for hospice care that prevent the ability to travel.

Vacationing while on hospice takes time and careful planning, but the rewards are immeasurable. Hospice care enhances quality of life no matter the number of days — and for many patients, that includes taking one last trip. Whether it’s the beach, a beloved vacation spot, the mountains, or a loved one’s home, traveling offers the gift of cherished memories.

“The best hospice patient vacation ideas are those that prioritize comfort, enjoyment, and the preferences of the patient,” say the experts at Senior Safety Advice. “The time away can benefit their mental health, which could possibly boost their physical health during their final days, even if it will be short-lived.”

For more guidelines and travel tips, see the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s updated Guide to Patient Travel in Hospice Care.