How to Help Aging Parents Maintain Independence After They No Longer Drive
The biggest fear most seniors have about turning over their car keys is that they will lose their independence. As a result, it can be hard for family caregivers to address unsafe driving with their aging parents. If your aging parent is on the verge of handing over the keys, you can help make the transition easier by helping them ensure they maintain their independence.
Prepare Ahead to Reduce Transportation Challenges for Your Aging Parent
The most successful transportation plans for seniors who no longer drive rely on a variety of options. Having several transportation options to choose from means they should always have an option. Even if you are their full- or part-time caregiver, you can’t be expected to be their only transportation option.
What if you work? What if you have an appointment? What if you are sick? Or, what if they don’t want to depend on you for their transportation? The biggest complaint many of my clients had was that they felt like they had to get “permission” to make an appointment since they needed to make sure they had a ride to their appointment.
You’ll want to explore all of the senior transportation options available so that you can use the best fit for each of your aging parent’s needs.
- Family, Friends or Neighbors: While your aging parents may not want to feel dependent by relying on their support system for all of their transportation needs, they shouldn’t discount this option as part of their transportation network. To figure out how to fit this into their network, think about the types of places they go and who would be a good option for that trip. For example, does their neighbor go grocery shopping every Tuesday? Can they join them? I see many of my neighbors sharing rides to the grocery store. It is a fantastic solution! Do they have a granddaughter or grandson who can take them to lunch on a weekend or a day off from school? Can you fit in their medical appointments?
- ADA Mandated Transportation: As a result of the American With Disabilities Act, there needs to be a public transportation option available for the disabled and elderly. The name and type of transportation will vary by state, so you’ll need to search for transportation and elderly to see what comes up. You can also reach out to your local senior center as they’ll know what is available and may even assist with the application process. This type of transportation is ideal for rides to places where your parent knows exactly how long they’ll need since they’ll need to book their return time in advance. Rides such as trips to the grocery store, lunch with friends, trips to the senior center, hair dresser or even physical therapy appointments are ideal trips.
- City Transportation Services: Most cities operate a ride service for seniors and the disabled. If you visit your city’s website, you should find information, or, as always, you can contact your helpful senior center. The benefit of these transportation services is that they are an easy way to get around locally to places like your senior center, the post office, grocery store or library. The downside is that you can usually only use them within your city’s boundaries, so they may not work for medical transportation.
- Public Transportation: Buses are a great on-demand transportation option for seniors who don’t have mobility challenges. If your parent is able to walk to a bus stop and has the cognitive ability to figure out bus routes, this could be a great option for them. Many senior centers and YMCAs have peer-to-peer training programs that can help show them the ropes.
- Taxi Service: In many cities, Taxi services have arrangements with the city to accept vouchers from seniors. This program allows seniors to take a Taxi at a reduced cost. To find out if this program is available to your parents, contact their senior center or the city council office.
- Ride Sharing Services: By now, you have likely heard of Uber and Lyft. These ride sharing services are on-demand and can be booked using an app on a cell phone. If your parent doesn’t have a smart phone, or isn’t tech savvy enough to figure out how to use the app, you can book the ride for them or find a service that will book their transportation. Some senior centers help their members book rides and their is also a service that will book rides for them – GoGoGrandparent.com.
Just because your parent no longer drives, doesn’t mean they have to stay home or rely on you for all of their rides. If you set them up with several options, they will feel more independent and you won’t feel tied down.
If you are still struggling with helping your aging parent transition from driver to permanent passenger, consider buying my new eBook Taking the Keys Away from Elderly Parents: How to Help Your Parents Give Up Driving and Set Them Up for Success“. I have held workshops for hundreds of seniors and caregivers on this critical safety issue and am now sharing my expertise in a new eBook.