Sharing "Plan" or "Ideas" on Helping FIL/MIL during Cruise?

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399 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
We're going on a 10-day cruise to Alaska in about a month. It's a request of my father-in-law (FIL) (he's 89, recovered from 2 bouts of liver cancer, experienced a wonderful Alaskan cruise about 13 years ago), so it's him, my mother-in-law (MIL), and all their children, daughter/son-in-laws, and grandchildren, all 15 of us. He uses a walker but will be in a wheelchair during this trip. He can get around his house in a walker but unwilling/able to walk longer distances. MIL recently had a mild stroke and recovered very quickly and is mobile (uses a cane outside the house but can walk without). As caregiver, MIL looks very stressed and tired, so one of our goals is to give her some time away from FIL. MIL (a martyr) tells us they won't need us to help, and FIL happily looks forward to all the attention

During the last couple of family dinners, we've discussed how we're going to take turns taking care of them and also how to relieve the pressure on MIL. We've come up with teams of 1-2 to rotate from the time they get up to the time they get ready for bed minus any napping/alone time. Examples: MIL will call son when they are up in the morning, and son will come over to help him put on clothes so that MIL can take care of getting herself ready; she can help w/bathroom-related stuff. Son will also bring them down to breakfast and call others who are already up to join them for breakfast. After breakfast, 2 granddaughters will go off with them to check out the ship and bring them back to the room to nap afterwards. When it's lunch time, another set of 2 granddaughters will get them ready and bring them to lunch and sit with them through lunch. After lunch, a daughter-in-law will hang out with them for the next several hours with onboard activities. Rotation will help individuals bond with them and spread the work around so that the same 2-3 people won't get "stuck" with them, while everyone else disappears.

For those who have travelled with the elderly or are the elderly, what has been your experience? Are we overplanning? Underplanning? Good intentions but it won't work? Other ideas and suggestions? Thanks in advance!
SoCal Gal
6,513 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
I don't have any experience with this, but I do have an 89 year old father who just last week received his walker. I simply want to tell you that your in-laws have been blessed with a wonderful person in you. IMO, I think your plans are good, but remember to stay flexible.
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27 Posts
Joined Apr 2017
My 2 cents for what its worth.

Last year on the Island Princess we had a hard time getting down the hallways with a walker because the cleaning carts didn't leave enough room for a walker (or wheelchair) so I had to move a number of them each trip to get from the room to the elevator, also sometimes people were really rude pushing in front of my sister as she tried to get into the elevator with her walker (although there were also people who were very helpful) so allow extra time to get anywhere.

It sounds like you have created a good plan but remind everyone that plans will have to be flexible as you see what works & what doesn't. Maybe plan a "debrief" after the first day & a few more times during the trip to see what is working & be sure it is not too much for anyone.

It looks to me like the factor deciding of if it will work or not is your MIL accepting the help?

You also might consider a walker with a seat for your MIL...that is what we had for my sis although she could walk without it, the support helped her & it gave her someplace to sit when we had to wait in line for the dining room or other places.

Nothing ever works perfectly so keep a sense of humor & enjoy the trip & time with them & one another.
399 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Thank you for the reminders of being flexible. I think a debrief after the first day is a great idea! I'll definitely suggest that.

Travelin.Sisters: MIL keeps telling us that she can handle it all and that we should go enjoy ourselves, so it'll be interesting how this will play out.

Etta: Oh I wish I could take credit By the grace of God, they have 4 wonderful kids, and the parents act as a second parents for me since mine are gone.

Love to hear more comments, and I'll try to remember to report back after our trip.
27 Posts
Joined Apr 2017
Originally posted by boltnut55

Travelin.Sisters: MIL keeps telling us that she can handle it all and that we should go enjoy ourselves, so it'll be interesting how this will play out.

Maybe someone can plan something to do with just her? There are various groups throughout the day or afternoon tea or the spa? So she could have a treat for her self with one or a few of you? They may also need more "down time" or even an afternoon nap than younger folks...hope it is wonderful for everyone.
Saskatoon, SK
259 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Your family Alaska cruise vacation sounds wonderful!

I am wondering if your MIL and or FIL would be receptive to the idea of a motorized scooter. We were on the Caribbean Princess in April, and there were many people happily moving around the cruise ship on their motorized scooters. They are not very wide, look very comfortable, and best of all, give the passenger more freedom to move around. I believe there is a company that supplies motorized scooters to cruise ship companies and you deal with the scooter company.

I am also wondering about nap times. You mention a morning nap. In my experience with my FIL/MIL, afternoon naps and then a 'rest' before dinner were important to them. But, everyone has their own personal activity levels and you will figure out what works for you and your family!

Depending on the cabin your FIL and MIL have selected, thinking about space to move around, then perhaps room service for breakfast or other meals might be a choice they would enjoy.

I know you will be responsive to changes that you will have to make as you go, and it will all be good!

Happy cruising!
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Grand Princess: Western Caribbean, January 2008
Crown Princess: Eastern Caribbean, January 2009
Grand Princess: Alaska Northbound June 2015
Caribbean Princess: Panama Canal w Costa Rica and Caribbean April 2018
1,610 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
My mom took 19 of us to alaska years after she went with our dad....she was in a wheelchair outside of the cabin.....with 6 "kids" we split up one family per day assisting with whatever she wanted to do....the little towns are so fun and easy to get around...she wanted to do a little shopping,see the sights that were readily available and go back to her cabin to rest....gave some of us who did not see her often some private time and a break for her primary wasn't a plan...just sort of made sense as it was her last trip and we have good memories of making it a great one....
New York, NY
731 Posts
Joined Aug 2003
I do not know if you are still planning or if you are already on your way. Assuming you are still planning, here are my suggestions.

When you get on the ship, and every night when you receive the daily publication, go through all the options with your in laws. Let them know what you are willing to do together and leave it up to them to decide how they wish to participate. Most people will find their own level. Even if your mother-in-law is hovering over your father-in-law, joining them and being available is helpful. I have cruised with my parents in the past, and I know it has helped to let them sit and play trivia, but to be nearby. Sometimes they just want to know what will be available for meals. Or, if someone actually gets involved in an activity and the other wants to go back to the room, one of you can stay at the activity with an elderly relative, while the other is walked back to the room.

Don't try to change people completely, just be available to lend a hand.

And take lots of pictures together.
399 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Thanks! We will be leaving on July 25th.

The one-family-a-day might not work for us due to special skills that some have that others don't, BUT it's actually a really great idea that never came up while we were discussing (some were less engaged in the process than others).
399 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Thought I'd post an update: I'm not exactly sure how everyone else felt about how this all went, but I thought it went better than planned. There were a lot of other things that came into play having to do w/our culture and family dynamics. Three days before we left, we had the last family meeting where we went through the schedule and talked about expectations. I had taken notes from the earlier 2 meetings about how we're splitting up duties, trying to keep it fair, etc.

travelin.sisters, you had suggested a debrief, so I put that onto the schedule as well, and it was a great idea. We tweaked a couple of things after the first 24 hours. Then some stuff happened (maybe a misunderstanding), so another meeting was called at the 1-week mark to clarify things.

MIL did her martyr thing. When FIL said, "I want to go back to the room," she'd feign being tired, but towards the end, I noticed she asserted herself more. For example, when we were in Victoria, he insisted on going back, so 1 taxi with him was going back to the ship, and 1 was going into Chinatown. He noticed that his wife wasn't there and asked where she was. His daughter told him that she was going to Chinatown, so he decided that he'd go as well - very cute On the last sea day, she agreed to watch the culinary demo even though he went back to his room halfway.

During the last night, his daughter-in-law said to him, "You missed all the shows. Tonight is the last night. How about going to the show?" He said, "No, next time." Maybe he missed the part about this being the last night, so someone checked by asking, "where are we going next time?" He replied, "Mexico!" Oh, I guess HE had a lot of fun!

It was a lot of work for several members mostly because of bathroom duty (only the 3 sons could do it, so along w/their shift, they also had to be around when women watched FIL and he needed the bathroom). FIL woke up at least 3 times a night to use the bathroom and a couple of nights almost hourly, so the son who stayed with them was on a crazy sleep schedule. At one point, my daughter said that she really wanted to do something during her shift, caught herself, and repeated our mantra, "This is for them, not for us. We can come back next time."

Thanks for all your advice and hope this will help others who might be doing a search in the future.
27 Posts
Joined Apr 2017
I am glad it went as well as it did...thank you for sharing the update...with both of my parents now gone, I can honestly say when you look back the memories will be worth all the frustrations & sacrifices & what a lesson for the grandchildren in the importance of family...
399 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Originally posted by travelin.sisters
I am glad it went as well as it did...thank you for sharing the update...with both of my parents now gone, I can honestly say when you look back the memories will be worth all the frustrations & sacrifices & what a lesson for the grandchildren in the importance of family...
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