Transportation Options for Older Adults
As we age, many of us will inevitably face the reality that we are no longer able to drive and have limited transportation options. This reality is particularly difficult because it impedes upon our independence and freedom. Many times, losing the ability to drive can create feelings of fear, anxiety and depression for the elderly and their loved ones.
If you are taking care of an aging loved one who can no longer drive, making transportation arrangements for him or her while you are juggling work, kids and family-life can be extremely difficult. Here are a few guidelines to take into consideration when exploring transportation options for your loved one.
There are several different types of transportation options including volunteer, para-transit, door through door, public transit/fixed route, taxis and transportation voucher programs. Although there are many options available, they aren’t always easy for your loved one to navigate on his or her own. Some options may have limited access–especially in rural communities–and can be expensive. There are several different factors to take into consideration as you choose the best options for your situation. The easiest starting point is by assessing the needs of your loved one by taking into consideration any physical, cognitive or financial limitations.
- Physical: Is assistance required with a walker or wheelchair? Assistance with doors or elevators? Assistance with stairs?
- Cognitive: Is assistance required with arranging transportation? Remembering what time to be ready or where to go? Arranging payment?
- Financial: Private transportation can be costly and there are many programs that are based off of one’s income. There is additional paperwork to be filed and in many instances it can take up to a month to be approved.
Once you have completed assessing your needs, there are a few different levels of service options to consider:
- Curb–to–curb: This assistance is for passengers being picked up and dropped off at the curb or roadside and continuing on their own.
- Door–to–door: This is a higher level of assistance where passengers are picked up at the door of their home and taken to the door of their destination.
- Door–through–door: This assistance typically has a variety of different levels and can vary by company. The service levels can include opening/closing, locking/unlocking doors, verbal and physical guidance, getting settled once you are at your destination, etc. This assistance also comes with a higher price tag and is usually furnished by private companies.
When evaluating the best options for you, here are some questions to take into consideration:
- Financial: What is the cost? How is the cost calculated? Can I set up an account to be billed? Are there additional fees for weekends, holidays, and an additional passenger such as a family member or caregiver? What is the tipping policy? Will my insurance cover this? Is my income a factor with this option?
- Accessibility: What is the service area covered? What are the days and hours they operate? What level of service is provided, including accommodation of walkers and wheelchairs? What is the procedure to schedule a ride to and from my destination? How much notice is required? What if my ride is late or doesn’t show up? If I am sharing a ride, what is the longest time I can expect to be riding along with others? Is this option provided for medical, social and religious situations?
- Eligibility: What are the requirements to use this service including any physical, cognitive or financial limitations? Is there an evaluation process? If so, what is it? Is a referral required from a physician or case manager?
If you plan to utilize private or personal transportation options please also consider asking the following: How often are the employees driving and insurance records reviewed? Are they bonded/insured? Are background checks performed? If so, how often? How often is their vehicle inspected?
All of us want to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. Utilizing transportation services helps us prevent feelings of isolation by staying active and connected to our family, friends and community.
By Gayle Messmann, RCAL