Driving is a source of pride and independence for everyone at any age. However, with aging, driving becomes an issue of safety. Mom or Dad may have already experienced some loss in mobility. They are not moving as quickly as they used to. Although normal, it is not what most people enjoy experiencing.
Imagine how much more isolating and embarrassing it feels to lose the ability to drive as well. Sadly, there may come a time when your parents need to surrender their car keys to avoid traffic accidents, or worse.
But that doesn't mean they need to stay at home all the time. There are services and systems available and in place to take them where they want. Here are several of the best transportation alternatives for aging parents.
Friends and Family
Most obviously, the easiest, safest, and most affordable way to help seniors get around is to get friends and family members to drive.
Schedule regular rides to the stores, park, library, doctor's appointments, or wherever they need to go. You and your family members may not always be available to drive, but that's why setting a schedule can help everyone plan ahead and foresee trips.
Setting an advance schedule also helps maintain communication lines and give your parents something to look forward to rather than either wondering what will happen or feeling like nothing is happening. If your parents have disabilities, you may need to make adjustments to your vehicle, but you'll both appreciate the extra time you'll get to spend together.
Volunteer Transportation Programs
If your parents regularly attend or used to attend a house of worship, contact them and see if they offer a volunteer transportation program (VTP). VTPs involve fellow congregants who offer free rides. Your parents probably already have a connection with the church, synagogue, mosque, or temple and may even know the drivers.
The range of rides offered may be limited to trips to the store, shopping mall, doctors, etc., and will likely need to be scheduled rather than available anytime. Still, again, the convenience and ability to look forward to a planned outing is crucial for one's mental health.
Public transportation seems like a clear choice when discussing the best transportation alternatives for aging parents. But if they cannot use or access public transportation because they're in a wheelchair or the like, paratransit lets them reserve a ride on an ADA-friendly shuttle bus.
Paratransit may be offered by the public transit system in your parents' town. Rides are usually reserved in advance, and the shuttle is generally shared with other individuals in similar circumstances. Call your municipal or regional transportation authority, township or county office and see about the availability of paratransit.
An easy way to discover if these public transportation options are available is to call your county's Area Agency on Aging. They will be happy to direct you to the right agency.
Most people are familiar with Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services, and their convenience makes their attendant costs worth it. For parents who are cautious about ride-sharing or need a little more help getting around, you or they can contact services like GoGoGrandparent, Arrive, and other senior-friendly services that work with the bigger ride-share companies. These services ensure vehicles that can store walkers and foldable wheelchairs, monitor and screen drivers for safety, and provide you with notifications about your parents' ride.
NEMT - Paratransit
Some companies offer non-emergency medical transportation that is sometimes covered by a person's insurance. If your elderly Mom or Dad needs to go to the doctor or are having testing at a hospital, they can provide an appropriate vehicle to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, or even a stretcher.
Be sure to check with your parent's health insurance (for those 65+ their MedicareSupplement) to see if the plan covers NEMT.
Don't forget the taxi! Some cities require locally licensed taxi fleets to include accessible vehicles. In some communities, they offer taxi vouchers for older and disabled riders.
If your parents have in-home caregivers, they may also be able to provide basic transportation to doctor's appointments and other personal transportation needs. Not every caregiver or agency will offer this, so be sure to ask.
One advantage of the in-home caregiver providing the basic transportation is they know your parent and their needs. They already have emergency contacts and know what to do if something happens in transit.
There is a level of anxiety when you have a loved one getting older and needing attention. Changes in health, body, and mind often lead to the need for long-term health care services. These costs are generally not paid for by health insurance and Medicare. The costs continue to grow every year, putting savings at risk and changing lifestyles.
Family caregivers face enormous challenges as the job is physically and emotionally demanding. Do you want your children to become your caregivers in the decades ahead? Remember, they will have careers, families, and responsibilities.
The solution is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. You will have guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for your choice of quality care, including in-home care. However, you need to enjoy reasonably good health when you apply for coverage, so be sure to plan in your 40s and 50s when premiums are low, and your health is best.
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