Welcome Wisdom

Transportation: Get Where You’re Going- Safely!

by Felicia Juntunen, MA, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management

Our most recent newsletters have focused on mobility, safety, and prevention and their role in older adults maintaining independence and well-being. These subjects all intersect with the topic of transportation, access to transportation or lack thereof, and its impact on well-being, and successful aging. Aging Life Care Professionals encourage older adults and their families to communicate early and plan for changes in the aging process that will impact driving. Residential location, physical changes, cognitive changes, and medication are primary considerations, especially where driving is concerned.

Thinking ahead about how residential location will impact future transportation needs is a good place to start. Evaluate whether a senior’s home is centrally located to necessary services or is more remote, thereby increasing the time needed to transport them for routine needs and perhaps limiting their access to transportation services in the future. Understand community transportation resources that are available to the older adult, research, and help them learn how to access those services, when necessary. Transportation resources vary by community, but most counties offer low-cost or free services for seniors. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging for county resources in your area. County transportation services can generally accommodate seniors who require some kind of adaptive equipment like a walker or wheelchair. Fee for service transportation services are also available. For seniors who require no assistance and can get in and out of a car without assistance, on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft are an option. GoGoGrandparent is a service that connects seniors with on-demand ride services that can accommodate walkers and folding wheelchairs. There are also private services that specialize in wheelchair transportation, thereby allowing passengers to remain in their wheelchair.

We live in a mobile society, where tremendous value is placed on a person’s ability to own and drive a vehicle. Driving represents independence. Driving is also an area of conflict for many older adults and their families. Care managers regularly assist with addressing concerns families may have about a loved one continuing to drive. They may have noticed the senior is unaware of other cars, drives too slowly, gets lost routinely, or is missing traffic signs and signals. However, and importantly, there are other signs that a senior’s ability to drive may be compromised, including difficulty accomplishing daily tasks, memory loss, or physical decline that causes imbalance or weakness. Certain medications can also impair driving ability. An Aging Life Care Professional can provide objective insight to a senior or their family, suggest a consultation with the senior’s primary care doctor, and support a driving assessment, if necessary. Care managers can also help provide strategies for discussion with a loved one, including how to approach the topic and who may be the best person to share concerns.

As with other challenges of aging, transportation is an issue that, when addressed sooner rather than later, can increase familiarity with and openness to transportation options. Mobility and independence can be positively associated with transportation alternatives. Under those circumstances, a decision to forgo driving is no longer seen as an obstacle but a choice made to optimize the safety and well-being of oneself and others.