GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Traveling can be stressful enough, but if you’re older and among the millions of people who have medical conditions like COPD, sleep apnea, or even require a wheelchair, it can be downright intimidating.

Local home medical equipment expert Jesse Neumann from Corner Home Medical says it doesn’t have to ground you. He shared a pre-flight checklist that will make traveling with seniors ( including those with special medical needs) safe and more enjoyable.

Q: What should seniors/people who have special medical needs do before booking a flight?

A: See Your Doctor

  • Unfortunately, the act of flying itself can exacerbate some medical issues -- like hypoxia or the lack of oxygen in COPD patients.
  • Before you book your flight, be sure to talk to your doctor about how your trip may affect you and your health.
  • Based on your particular symptoms, your doctor may recommend certain medications or advise you to take certain equipment -- such as supplemental oxygen -- with you.
  • Your doctor may also be able to provide you with medical documentation to describe your condition, in case you need it while traveling.

A: Check with TSA & the Airline

  • The TSA and most airlines understand many of their flyers have medical issues, and they do their best to accommodate them.
  • If you are traveling with medical equipment such as a wheelchair or oxygen, make sure to check out the TSA’s website. They have a lot of detailed information about what you’ll need to know, show, and do when going through security at the airport.
  • And remember, each airline is different, so it’s important for you as a traveler to know what you can and can’t take on board your flight and to make sure you have what you need in order to stay healthy during your trip.
  • You will also likely have to get to the airport early to go through the screening and boarding process.

Q: Once the flight’s booked, what should people with medical needs do next?

A: Pack the Right Tools

  • Once you know what security and the airline will allow you to bring on board the plane, you can start to pack accordingly.
  • Luckily, many companies make portable and travel-sized specialized medical equipment.
  • For example, if you have sleep apnea and you need a CPAP machine, you don’t have to worry about lugging around your home device. In fact, some come with solar panels to help you recharge them so you don’t have to mess with taking extra batteries or cords!

A: Expect the Unexpected

  • It’s also important to plan for the unexpected.
  • Pack your medications in your carry-on bag, so that you can easily and quickly access them.
  • If you do need something like supplemental oxygen, bring along extra supplies, in case something breaks down.

Q: What happens if someone needs medical assistance while on the flight?

  • Some airlines do require a special medical certificate from your doctor describing your condition -- so if something happens during the flight, they know what to expect and might be able to help while you’re on board.
  • Most planes are equipped with emergency medical kits, and flight attendants are trained to handle certain medical emergencies.
  • If they can’t, they’ll either ask for help from any doctors, nurses or paramedics who might be on board.

The Minnesota Board on Aging’s Senior LinkAge Line is another great resource for information on a variety of aging-related topics.

Experts will answer your questions weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The toll free number to call is 1 (800) 333-2433.