Aging & Transportation

Safety of a loved one is a primary concern for family members.  They want to know that falls can be prevented, friends and family can stop by to check in, and emergency services are available at the drop of a hat if there’s an issue.

As the elderly become more frail their ability to remain independent is challenged in many ways.  One of the first things to go is their ability to drive.  With early memory challenges and difficulty walking it can often be too dangerous.

At this point friends and family step in.  They pick up groceries.  They drive their loved one to a friend’s home for a visit.  They pick up cleaning supplies from the local drug store.

With time the burden can become too much for the few family.  What starts as a small trip to the store ends up a weekly commitment.  Free time is sucked up by many small errands.

I want the family caregivers to feel like they have help.  I want them to know that their loved one has options to get safe transport beyond the immediate family.

Below are several options for transport that family coordinators of care should investigate.  By finding one or two options that work for your family you will feel like you’re not alone.  You will know that not all of the burden is on your own shoulders.

1. Caregivers

At home health aids often do house chores in addition to helping with activities of daily living.  Long-term care insurance companies often include home chores (e.g., cleaning, cooking) as part of the overall care package.

If you have limited care hours per week think of creative ways to use that time.  Maybe part of it can be used to drive your mother to her favorite bridge game.  Once every couple weeks your Dad may wish to shop with the health aid at the grocery store.

Take a few minutes and reach out to your care coordinator and ask them about chores that aids can assist with around the home.  If driving is one of them, take them up on it.

(Bonus!  If you may need a caregiver in the near future look here for how to find a one. If you anticipate playing the role of the caregiver yourself (even if part time), look here and here for how to get paid while taking on this new role.)

2. Volunteer Driver Programs

Many churches and community centers have volunteers who will drive the elderly to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and visits to family.  Check with your loved one’s church or the local public community center.

One of my favorite benefits is from libraries.  Many public libraries have drop off programs for the elderly or disabled.  Reserve a book for your loved one and a volunteer or employee of the public library will drop off the book at your loved one’s home.  Check with your local library to see if this is available in your area.

3. Public Transportation

If your loved one lives in a large metropolitan city there are different transportation options for the elderly and disabled.

For example, in NY many of the main subway lines have elevators.  Every day men and women in their 70’s and 80’s using the subway.  As a bonus, if you are over 65 in NY you get a discounted public transportation card.

There is also a program called “Access-A-Ride” which provides transportation services for the disabled and individuals who are unable to use the bus or subway.  The service provides door-to-door assistance.

All of these services may not be available in your loved one’s neighborhood.  But take a look.  Particularly as our population gets older, many cities are adding services like this for the elderly.

4. Uber Assist

Uber now provides a higher touch transportation service for the elderly and disabled called UberASSIST.  Currently only available in select cities, this services is likely to expand around the country.

Uber Assist is provided by drivers who have received specialized training from non for profits like Open Doors.  They learn skills for door-to-door assistance, working with wheel chairs and general skills for working with people with disabilities.  The vehicles are wheel chair accessible.  The rates for this service are the same as UberX.

5. Areas Agencies On Aging

Area Agencies on Aging is the primary government agency focused on aging in America.  They are a great resource for many issues related to caring for the elderly.  They highlight three organizations for elderly transportation needs:

  • National Center on Senior Transportation
  • Inclusive Coordinated Transportation Partnership Project
  • One Call/One-Click Operations Guide

Calling your local Area Agency on Aging can be a great way to find out what services are available in your local area.

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Published: July 30, 2015
By: JP Adams

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