I want to take Dad with us on vacation, but I don't know if it's the right thing to do.


Dad has come with us to “the lake” for two weeks every summer for the past 20 years since the kids were little. Things at home have become more complicated, and I worry about how he will manage there. Honestly, I worry about ME being consumed with his care…and that it will impact my time away. Am I being selfish? It's a dilemma. Thinking honestly about it is painful and feels like a lose-lose situation.

What to do?

The final decision for this conundrum is as individual as the family and their circumstances. There's no easy, right, or wrong answer. It is uncomfortable to dig deeply into this kind of situation, but most family systems have to face it at some point.

Begin by taking an inventory. Make a practical list of the questions below or those that fit your situation:

  • What is the access to the lake house? Are there stairs or a steep hill?
  • Can Dad navigate around safely inside and outside?
  • Can he shower and use the bathroom safely and easily?
  • Are the furnishings and bedding compatible with what he needs?
  • Does he even want to go, or is he trying to accommodate the family?
  • He has a Home Health Aide three times a week. Can we get that service at the lake?
  • Will his emergency response system work at the lake the same way it does at home?
  • He needs help at home…how do we manage if he doesn't come with us?

You might find that Dad is anxious about leaving home.

Although he loves the lake, it may feel like "too much" for him. He may not want to disappoint you, but you wouldn't know unless you initiate the conversation. Be careful not to make your elder loved one feel like a burden. Focus on their comfort and confidence in making the trip. You know them best; you will know if they are keen to make the trip or are looking for an "opt-out."

Things to consider if Dad doesn't come with us:

  • What will he need at home?
  • Are there services in place for medication supervision, meal planning and preparation, emergency responders if needed, visitors, and companionship?

If your extended family, friends, and neighbors can piece a plan together, and it seems safe and "enough," move forward with that plan. Suppose you have concerns that this is too loose a system that could collapse and leave him in a vulnerable position, consider reaching out to your local Council on Aging and see what they suggest. These overwhelming dilemmas are the routine work of the skilled and compassionate experts at the Council on Aging.

Things to consider if Dad DOES come with us:

  • What do you need in place?
  • Can Dad be left alone safely, or does someone from the family need to be with him? Can we make up a schedule so everyone can have their own time and time to share with Dad?
  • Does he need logistic and comfort accommodations regarding furnishings, bedding, and toileting?
  • Are there any creature comforts he doesn't want to be without? His own pillows, a particular cushion, or mattress topper?
  • Does he have unique nutritional needs?

Like everything we need to feel comfortable and "at home," Dad’s needs are no different. Make sure to bring all of his medications, and if he has one, his Emergency Packet with his health care proxy, list of medications, diagnoses, physicians, and emergency treatment plan. Know the local hospital and the options for emergency transport.

Through a careful and thoughtful decision-making process, you will find the solution that best fits your family. You will either prepare for him at home or find ways to make the time together during your vacation a win-win for everyone.

national lampoon's vacation, american dad!, i don't know what you want but i can't give it any more, council on aging, home health aide, family systems, dad