The Importance of Transportation and How to Find It
There is growing evidence that utilization of social support services leads to lower rates of hospitalization, lower health care costs, and better outcomes for patients. One of the most important social services is reliable transportation. Many organizations now offer transportation services to help patients stay active and access their healthcare providers.
If your loved one is unable to drive and you are unable to provide all rides yourself, there are a number of transportation options to consider. While availability will vary by location, here are some common transportation options:
Bus and train services with fixed routes and set schedules are available in most locations. These usually offer discounted fares for older adults and people with disabilities. Bus stations usually have accessibility features, but public transit might not be suitable for those who have difficulty navigating stairs, waiting outside or walking to and from stops.
Public transit agencies are required by law to provide para-transit service for those who are unable to use regular lines. This service typically operates during the same hours as normal service and covers similar routes. Notably, riders must meet eligibility criteria set out in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
It is best to schedule trips at least a day in advance. Agencies typically have a 30-minute pickup window, from 15 minutes before to 15 minutes after the scheduled time, so riders need to be ready and waiting at least 15 minutes early.
Also called Dial-a-Ride, demand response is a shared-ride service, carrying multiple passengers who book individually with different pickup points and destinations. Typically, reservations should be made at least 24 hours in advance (online or by phone).
Some communities require locally licensed taxi fleets to include accessible vehicles. Discount vouchers may also be offered to older or disabled riders.
Ride-hailing companies (Lyft and Uber) connect passengers with drivers who provide point-to-point transportation in their own vehicles. Booking and payment are done via websites or mobile apps. In some cities, passengers can request wheelchair assistance while booking.
The Uber Assist program trains drivers to accommodate passengers that use wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters and Lyft is teaming with United Way to provide free rides through the 211 phone service (see below) for people who have difficulty using public transit.
Non-emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)
NEMT is a Medicaid benefit that covers travel to medical appointments. Private insurance, including some Medicare Advantage plans, may also cover it. Be sure to check with your provider before utilizing NEMT. Please note that the rules, guidelines, and allowed modes of transportation for NEMT vary from state to state.
The 211 phone code is reserved for callers to get information and referrals for health and social services in their area, including transportation for older and disabled Americans. The 211 service is available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. You can get more information on 211 and find your local service at 211.org.
Source: “Caregiver Tips: Transportation What Caregivers Need to Know” AARP, www.aarp.org/caregiving