Caring for aging parents can often bring a whole host of tasks and responsibilities, chief among them transportation to doctor’s appointments. As people age, physical decline or cognitive impairment can mean that an aging adult has to give up driving. This can be a real loss of independence for your family member.
It also creates a burden on you to provide for the needs of that person, and that includes doctor’s appointments. If you are worried that you may be unable to meet all the transportation demands required to help your loved one with their health, here are some options you may want to consider.
Before you explore options to get someone to the doctor, find out about the possibility of telehealth. If the appointment is routine and not urgent, doing the appointment by video or phone might work.
This option has become increasingly useful during restrictions related to the pandemic. If labs are required, you might have to take your loved one out unless they are receiving home health services. If they are, the nurse might be able to draw the necessary labs.
2. Use An Ambulance
This is an expensive choice, but certainly an option in a pinch. We usually think of an ambulance for emergencies, but they can be used for transport to medical appointments.
Medicare will only cover the cost of ambulance transportation under these conditions:
- Transportation to and from hospitals if the receiving hospital is the closest facility.
- The patient will be responsible for additional mileage to any other facility unless it is to receive a medically necessary service not provided at the original facility.
- Transportation to approved dialysis facilities.
- Documented emergency transports.
- Transports between SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) and a hospital.
You will want to check with your insurance to see if the ride is covered for your circumstances. Otherwise, your family member will be responsible for costs.
3. Home Care Aide
Your loved one may already be receiving home care through a personal care agency. One of the benefits of this service is the ability for home care caregivers to provide transportation. An aide can help someone to the car and get them directly to the appointment and accompany the person inside.
A home care aide may not be the best choice in a situation where someone has complex medical needs since they are using their own personal vehicle (or yours). A home care aide may have limited ability to handle medical conditions or emergencies.
If your loved one does not have an ongoing aide service, it might be possible to get a contract with an agency for the sole purpose of transportation. You may not get the same person each time and costs will vary depending on the time spent and where you live. Expect to pay between $20 to $40 an hour.
4. Senior Transportation Through Your Area Agency on Aging
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is a good place to start in finding transportation services for an aging or disabled individual. Your Area Agency on Aging sometimes provides transportation services themselves. Other times they will refer to another agency or program that will provide the transportation.
It is important to keep these criteria in mind:
- Transportation is for medical appointments only and not for shopping, visiting friends, or other recreational activities.
- Rides must be scheduled in advance and cancellation has to be arranged within a defined period of time. People who do not follow these requirements may be dropped from the program.
- The service area may be limited to a certain geographical area. The area where you live may not be covered.
5. Private Senior Transportation
Private senior transportation services, also known as medical cars, are starting to become more popular across the country. The growing need for medical transportation for seniors is not being met by only state and federal programs. There just aren’t enough programs to accommodate the need. With private senior transportation, there is a cost per ride which varies depending on a number of factors.
These are the services these companies provide:
- If there is a driver available, you can make an appointment with very little notice. Most other transportation options require at least 24-hours notice.
- Drivers will meet the client at the door, and accompany them to their appointment. Then the client is left at the appointment and calls for a return ride.
- Most companies have a fleet of vehicles including sedans, vans, and vehicles with wheelchair lifts. Some even have the ability to take a stretcher.
A private medical car is probably less expensive than using an ambulance and is a more personalized service.
6. Lyft or Uber (Gogograndparent)
Lyft and Uber are very good options for people who have the technological ability to access the service. For people who aren’t comfortable using the Lyft or Uber app on a smartphone, there is Gogograndparent.
Gogograndparent eliminates the need to deal with a phone app. The client calls the main number and presses one number to access transportation. The membership fee is $9.99 a month, and the Lyft or Uber fare is added to that cost. You will want to check on the ride fee before making a decision, as Lyft and Uber can charge more during busy times of the day.
Lyft and Uber have added wheelchair assistance to some of their rides as the need for accessibility accommodations have grown. Lyft and Uber rides are usually “curb to curb,” meaning that assistance entering and exiting a clinic will not be provided.
7. Public Transit
Your loved one may be willing to try public transportation with some encouragement and training. If your family member is willing to try it, the costs are typically less than private transportation methods. Many transit companies also offer senior discounts. If there is only one route to learn, for example to one clinic and back, public transportation might work well.
If possible, consider going on a test ride with your family member, as you’ll be able to see first hand if they are able to get on and off without help. Aging adults with cognitive impairment issues may not fare well on public transit, as they may be too vulnerable or get lost.
Communities serviced by public transit companies have a responsibility to provide transportation to individuals with disabilities, according to the American With Disabilities Act (ADA). Thanks to the ADA, communities also have wheelchair accessible vans available to pick folks up.
As with some other forms of transit, pick up and drop off options are limited to “curb to curb” only. Drivers can however help people getting on and off the transit vehicle. Paratransit options are also eligible for those that meet the criteria required to use these services, and customers must register and schedule rides at least a day in advance.
In larger metropolitan regions, taxis can be an easier form of transportation. Rides can be scheduled, or available simply by walking outside and flagging one. However, it should be noted that it is not typical to receive help getting in and out of the taxi. As mentioned above, it’s worth checking and comparing costs with other private transit options such as Uber or Lyft depending on the time and place.
10. Volunteer Programs
Some non-profit and faith-based programs also provide volunteer transportation services. For those looking to request transportation, this service can be acquired by calling 211 and is available 24 hours a day.
11. Other Family Members
If you’re in a tight spot, it’s also worth asking other family members if they would be available to help. Family members may be open to help every so often, especially a grandchild, niece, or nephew.
Remember to give them advance notice if you can, and try to compensate them for their time if possible.
Help Getting to a Doctor’s Appointment
With a bit of research, you can have several options at the ready when it comes to alternative forms of transportation to a doctor’s appointment. By making a creative and concerted effort, you can find transportation to doctor’s appointments that can work for everyone without causing duress.