Many seniors struggle with the decision to give up driving. The car is so central to most of our lives in the U.S. and driving is associated with the freedom to come and go as we wish. But, safety issues such as limited mobility, diminished senses, health-related dangers and cognitive impairment may affect driving as we age. An absolutely vital part of this discussion and decision is to understand what options will be available to help with senior transportation, in other words to make a “post driving” plan.
We call this “Thriving without Driving” because we believe it is essential that people be empowered to continue favorite activities as they age. We believe it is absolutely possible (and essential) that this can be done even after one stops driving.
Analyzing Senior Transportation Options in Your Area
The best course of action is to gather some information before a crisis. In other words, if you are worried about an elderly loved one, get some information on senior transportation options in their area. If you yourself are considering “giving up the car keys” find out a little bit about different ways you can get to various appointments, events and run errands. It will make the idea a lot less scary if you know your options. Often, a combination of resources will provide the best plan to most affordably and conveniently continue your activities.
Rural areas and certain communities do suffer from a dearth of options. However, more and more communities are addressing this issue with various solutions. You can often hire elderly driving services through a home health company, but perhaps may need to work closely with them on scheduling and options if you are somewhere where the availability of help is scattered. You might also make the decision to move closer to loved ones or in to a retirement community if you are very isolated, not only for transportation needs but for other support as well.
Your local aging agency, such as the Area Agency on Aging, is a great place to get some initial information on senior transportation resources. Different communities vary widely, but just to give you an idea of the types of options that might be available, many communities offer services such as:
- Aging agencies/programs may provide stand-alone transportation during certain days/hours (may be limited to Dr. appointments and/or transportation to meal sites or elder programs) or transportation integrated in to existing programs. You may have the qualify for the program or may be asked to pay costs on a sliding scale.
- Hospitals sometimes have transportation programs (often through volunteers) to get patients around within the hospital system and to/from nearby homes to medical appointments.
- Disease-specific organizations and non-profits may have volunteer-led programs. The American Cancer society is one example, with programs to help people with cancer get to treatments with the help of volunteer drivers.
- Your public transportation system may offer different options and/or discounts for seniors.
- Private senior transportation is often available through home care companies like EasyLiving. This is your most flexible option, in which you get a private driver and can schedule according to your needs (as well as use ancillary services you might need).
A Little More About Hiring Drivers for Elderly Through Home Care Agencies
Many of our clients have found that this is the best senior transportation option for them, or they use these services in combination with other options. For example, they may take advantage of their hospital’s volunteer drivers when they have appointments on the hospital campus but use their EasyLiving driver to take them on errands, to events and to appointments throughout Pinellas County. We have often helped clients who need to go to specialists located quite a distance from home. For example, a client in Largo needs to go for treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Most of the public transit and volunteer-based programs are limited in availability for trips like this across Tampa Bay.
A home health agency (make sure they are a licensed provider and get information about their licensing requirements, which vary by state) offers additional protections for you, such as insurance and backup help. Typically, a home health agency can offer the option of 1. driving you in your car if you still have one (some clients prefer their car, and you typically won’t pay mileage this way) or 2. providing a caregiver who has a vehicle to drive you (you typically pay mileage in this case). Get details from the home care agency on how this works and check with your car insurance if you are going to have someone driving your car.
If a home health aide assists you with driving, the nice thing is that this person can also help with other needs. He/she can assist you getting in and out of the car, help escort you at your appointment/to the bathroom, assist with shopping and errands and more. Many clients first need help with senior transportation, but the care plan can develop to provide additional services through your already established relationship.
Florida and Pinellas County Senior Transportation Resources
The Florida GrandDriver Program was created by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and its partners. You can find an array of information there about safe driving, reporting an unsafe senior driver, driving test programs, and resources.
In Pinellas County, the public transit system offers various discount programs but also a special “demand response” program (known as DART) for those who qualify. This provides transportation via a cab or wheelchair van (within specified times, with a reservation, within certain routes). You have to fill out an application, providing a lot of detail about your difficulties taking the regular modes of transport and get qualified professional verification. Once qualified, you will pay a per trip charge when you use the service.
A number of our local hospitals in Pinellas County also offer volunteer-based transportation for medical needs. For example, Mease Countryside in Clearwater, Mease Dunedin and Morton Plant in Clearwater offer a Care Van service within certain boundaries.
Additionally, there are some services available through non-profit agencies such as Neighborly Care Network (both stand-alone, fee-based services and specified transportation for certain programs and limited radius medical appointments).
EasyLiving, Inc. offers a wide array of home health services, including senior transportation throughout Pinellas and west Pasco counties (clients must be based in those areas, but we can provide rides beyond those areas such as transportation to Tampa, Sarasota, etc.). We provide senior concierge services as well, for special events, travel and more. Give us a call any time at 727-447-5845 to find out more about Pinellas County senior transportation or other senior care services!