Health implications when traveling abroad for the elderly
Traveling abroad is exciting, but there are health considerations that you should remember about when you are 65 and older and preparing to embark on an adventure overseas. The following tips will help ensure you are ready to meet any health issues that may arise while you are away.
Visit the CDC destination travel health information website to review what vaccinations and medications may be required or recommended and to familiarize yourself with important safety information and health precautions to take while in the country.
Visit the Travel.State.Gov International Travel website to view travel advisories, driving and road safety tips, lodging safety tips, crisis readiness information, and customs and import restrictions.
COVID-19 Testing requirements
The CDC recommends getting a virus test as close as possible before travel (no later than three days beforehand). Some countries may require PCR Covid testing before international travel. You should read through any specific requirements they have.
You should only travel if you have a negative test result. You can find a U.S. COVID-19 testing location near you by visiting the hhs.gov website or using a COVID-19 self-test, which can be purchased online, in pharmacies, and retail stores.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, PCR and rapid antigen tests may be covered. Visit Hellahealth for detailed information on what is covered, and answers to other important questions.
Consult with your physician or health provider before traveling abroad to identify any healthcare needs before or during your trip:
- Ask your physician to write a letter that you can bring that describes any medical conditions and prescription medications you are taking, along with the medication name and dose.
- Share your travel plans with your physician – where you are traveling, how long you will be there, how long the flights are, and what you plan on doing.
- Ask your doctor if you are up to date on all your vaccinations and any other vaccinations you need for the country you travel to.
- Make sure your medication refills are all up to date.
Prescription Medications and Medical Supplies:
- Ensure you bring enough medication, including any hearing aid batteries, diabetes test strips, eye drops, dental supplies, and incontinence supplies, to cover your trip’s entire duration. If possible, it is a good idea also to bring a few extra days in case you experience unexpected delays.
- If you have a medical device that needs to be charged or plugged into an electric wall outlet, don’t forget to bring a travel converter and adapter. These can be found online and at many electronic and retail stores.
- Some countries restrict certain medications from entering the country. Visit the state department website travel webpage travel.state.gov/destination to ensure the country you visit permits your medications.
- Keep all prescription medications and over-the-counter products in their original labeled bottle.
- It is important to carry your prescription medication in your carry-on bag, not your checked bag.
- If your prescription medication requires refrigeration, make sure you travel with it in an insulated bag.
- Don’t forget to bring or wear any relevant medical alert information
When traveling outside the United States, Medicare typically does not pay medical expenses, except with some exceptions.
If you have private health insurance, check to see if it covers medical emergencies outside the U.S. Private plans may require that you pay medical costs directly before you can be reimbursed. If your health insurance lacks the coverage you may need, consider looking for a policy that will pay overseas hospitals directly.
There are other insurance options to help cover medical costs when traveling abroad:
- Medical evacuation insurance: can be purchased separately or as a package with your travel health insurance policy, and it provides coverage for medical care and emergency transportation.
- Travel health insurance: Covers emergency and routine medical care services outside the U.S.
Getting help while you are traveling outside the U.S.
The U.S. Department of State is a good contact should you need help locating medical services while traveling abroad. They can inform family or friends (with your permission) of your need for medical emergency care while you are traveling abroad, and they can also help transfer funds to a U.S. citizen overseas.