Why is transportation important for older people?

A means of transportation is an essential ingredient in maintaining a person’s independence. It is especially important for people as they grow older. Transportation allows them to run errands, go to doctor’s appointments, and socialize with family and friends.

However, there will come a time when your loved one’s driving skills will decline due to age, disability, or both. Once this occurs, it is important to assess whether or not it is still safe for your loved one to drive. Some warning signs of a possible decline in driving skills include:

  • A series of close calls, collisions, or driving violations, even if they are minor
  • Braking harder than normal for stops lights and stop signs, running over curbs or through stop signs
  • Difficulty seeing things on the road
  • Difficulty maintaining the car in the center of the lane
  • Trouble turning his or her head before changing lanes
  • Trouble adjusting to the oncoming glare of headlights
  • Increased frustration, anger, or anxiety when driving
  • Becoming confused in simple driving situations or lost in familiar areas
  • Failure to use turn signals or mirrors
  • Hitting the brakes instead of the accelerator or vice versa
  • Increased confrontation with other drivers

If you notice some of the above declines in driving skills in your loved one, this does not mean the car must be taken from him or her immediately. The first step a caregiver must take with his or her loved one is to talk about the signs of possible decline that concern you.

During this talk, the caregiver can make suggestions, s such as encouraging his or her loved one to avoid driving at night, during rush hour, or when weather makes the roads slick. Another approach can be recommending a medical and/or eye exam to see if any of the above signs can be corrected.

If the caregiver determines that his or her loved one should no longer be driving, alternate means of transportation should be sought. Often times this means the caregiver must be the one who provides transportation. However, it is not always possible nor is it practical to provide transportation when needed. Fortunately, there are options.

To find information on transportation for the elderly that is available in your area, one of the best places to start is your local area Administration on Aging. These agencies are part of the Administration for Community Living, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

These agencies have information available to older persons and their caregivers about transportation services, as well as other services available in the community. Not only do these agencies provide information, they also monitor and support specialized services for elderly in the community. These agencies also ensure that services are delivered to those elderly in need.

Other references for available transportation include:

The Yellow Pages: Many telephone books have a section in the front that lists the names of various service organizations. Looking under transportation or community service may also list the names of those organizations that provide services to the elderly or disabled.

The Community Transportation Association’s Information Station: The hotline provides the names of local transportation providers who receive federal funds to provide service to the elderly and people with disabilities. Their toll free number is 800.527.8279.

Under certain instances, Medicaid will cover transportation. This coverage varies from state to state. For specific coverage guidelines, contact your state’s Department of Human Services. Generally, Medicaid benefits include:

  • Ambulance services when other means of transportation are detrimental to the patient’s health.
  • Transportation to and from the hospital at time of admission or discharge when required by the patient’s condition.
  • Transportation to and from a hospital, outpatient clinic, doctor’s office or other facility when the physician certifies the need for this service. Medicare will pay for ambulance transportation when the health care provider indicates it is medically necessary.