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How to Build Your Parent’s Personal Transportation Plan

Casey Kelly-Barton
By Casey Kelly-BartonMarch 28, 2019

Finding affordable and reliable transportation for a parent who doesn’t drive can be a challenge. That’s true even for senior loved ones in senior living communities because even though most communities make transportation available to seniors, information about those services can be hard to find.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, read on for five tips on how to build your parent’s personal transportation plan.

5 Steps for Building Your Parent’s Personal Transportation Plan

“Lisa,” a member of an online group I participate in, had to find transportation for her mother twice: first in a small village in upstate New York and later in Albany.

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“Decent options in rural New York were almost nil,” she told me, although there was a volunteer group with limited availability. In Albany, finding rides was easier, but still took some investigation to find services, understand their eligibility rules and then buy passes.

The new Every Ride Counts campaign by the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center offers resources to connect agencies with families and suggestions on finding rides for your parents.

Here’s how they recommend creating a plan for getting Dad or Mom where they need to go:

Step 1: Create a list of your parent’s transportation needs.

Turning in the car keys can pack an emotional punch and so does knowing that family members can’t always provide rides. One way to reduce a parent’s fears of isolation is to list all the things they need rides for.

The NADTC recommends breaking the list into essential trips, like doctor’s appointments and shopping, and trips your parent wants to take, like senior living tours or social outings.

With your lists in place, you’ll be better prepared to talk to services agencies about what your parent needs and to prioritize the most important rides.

Step 2: Have a discussion with a local mobility manager.

There’s no single concierge for senior transportation but there are people who can help you learn what’s available in your area.

Start with these resources:

Step 3: Research what else is available near your parent.

In addition to the local transit authority and volunteer ride services, look for other options, too.

Does your parent have friends and neighbors who are willing to take them along to the store when they shop for groceries? Is there a taxi service or rideshares like Lyft or Uber your parent can use when other options aren’t available? Should you hire a home care aide to drive them to errands?

Don’t worry about cost just yet. At this step, focus on finding all the options.

Step 4: See how each transportation option works.

At this point, you may want to make a spreadsheet that you can share with your parent to keep all the details straight.

NADTC suggests that for each transportation option in your area, you should find out:

  • Are there limits on the types of trips (medical, religious services) you can schedule?
  • Can the ride accommodate a wheelchair or a rider who needs help?
  • Do you need to reserve rides in advance?
  • How much do rides cost?
  • Is there a sliding scale or financial assistance for low-income riders?
  • What’s their service area?
  • Who’s eligible to use the service?

Step 5: Work on building your parent’s transportation plan.

With all this information, you can start by setting up rides for your parent’s most pressing needs first, whether that’s the doctor, the grocery store or something else. Then come up with an alternative in case the first choice is unavailable.

After that, you can move on to the transportation needs on your parent’s “want” list. You may find that while taking a taxi to every doctor appointment is too expensive, it’s also not necessary thanks to low-cost local volunteer services. That may free up funds for your parent to take a cab every now and then to visit friends or go to the movies.

You may need to start slowly, ease your parent into the new routine, and revise the plan. For example, Lisa said her mother used the volunteer service in her village “under duress” but was comfortable taking the door-to-door shuttle in Albany.

Listen to your parent’s feedback, stay in touch with your chosen transportation providers and be prepared to adjust your plan as needed to keep your parent on the go.

Are you a caregiver who has created a personal transportation plan for a parent? What other tips would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.

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Casey Kelly-Barton
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