- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 29 June 2015
Program offers elders and persons with disabilities transportation services to healthcare-related venues
LifePath seeks volunteers for Rides for Health, a relatively new program that addresses an unmet need for elders in our community: transportation to and from medical and healthcare-related venues, such as an appointment with a specialist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield or something closer to home, like a trip to the corner pharmacy to fill a prescription.
Transportation access is a need for elders all across our nation. According to a June 23, 2015, article in USA Today, 19% of the 271,000 calls received by the national Eldercare Locator hotline were for transportation needs. “Many callers express frustration because they can't do simple things like visit the doctor,” the Eldercare Locator explained in a report. Transportation needs were the top reason for calls in 2014, and 77.5% of those calls were for medical appointments while 13.8% were related to healthcare needs.
Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, runs the call center. “It's a very specific need,” she says. “People are looking predominantly for a ride to some kind of medical appointment.” This need is exacerbated for those living in rural areas, where there is often a lack of public transit options.
Our local elders express their transportation needs
In Franklin County, our rural landscape makes for a beautiful place to live, but access to reliable transportation that meets an older person’s unique needs is a concern for elders.
In the development of the Rides for Health program structure, Program Director Trevor Boeding conducted interviews with elders to determine their specific needs. All following names of those interviewed have been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewees. In the survey, when asked if transportation to their doctor or healthcare provider was ever a problem for you, respondents said,” Yes.” They report having to miss or cancel and reschedule appointments when unable to find transportation, delaying medical procedures or foregoing them all together. Specific concerns also included the need for “door-to-door” and “door-through-door,” rather than just “curb-to-curb” assistance, as well as insufficient times of operation and service area coverage with existing public transportation options.
“The planning, scheduling, and basic functioning is more of a pain than the doctor’s appointment. Buses are totally out of the question with the walker, as balance is my main issue and there is no one to help with getting on the bus unless you bring someone with you,” says Rebecca Lake. “I tried it once and gave up before I even got on the bus.”
With Rides for Health, trained volunteers offer door-through-door assisted transportation to home care clients, both elders and persons with disabilities. Volunteers work one-to-one, so the person using the service contacts the volunteer directly to arrange for transportation. Volunteers may also provide escort and assistance to the client who uses public transportation. Rides for Health volunteers are trained and authorized to provide physical assistance as needed and remain with the individual at the destination, so there is no calling or waiting for the return trip.
Some elders are able to hire private drivers, but even then transportation is not always available when it is needed. “My driver works two hours weekly, and my appointments are not when she is working,” says Katherine Stone.
When unable to afford private transportation or to rely on public transit to for healthcare needs, some turn to family, friends, and caregivers.
“It’s a hardship if I have to pay someone,” says Rosa Torres. “I rely on friends and family for transportation needs. Without them, I would seriously need transportation help.” There are no additional fees for Rides for Health services, so if Rosa’s relatives and other loved ones were unable to help out, she would not have to find a way to pay a private driver; she could simply call her Rides for Health volunteer.
“My caregiver, Joann, drives me to all my appointments and picks up my prescriptions, but she uses her own car and gas money to do it for me. I would like her to be my personal driver and to get her reimbursed for mileage she uses on her own car. She sometimes drives very far for my appointments,” says Emil Lundberg. With Rides for Health, Joann could volunteer to provide transportation for Emil using her private, insured vehicle and receive mileage reimbursement through the program.
Even those who still drive on their own may need assistance with certain trips. “Due to high-speed driving on I-91, I no longer drive on interstate highways,” says Viktoria Golovin, who has had trouble obtaining transportation to out-of-county medical appointments. A Rides for Health volunteer could offer support for Viktoria as she needs it, as with these longer trips.
Become a volunter in just one half-day!
Becoming a volunteer is simple. After completing the application process, you will attend a half-day of training.
The next free training takes place on Thursday, July 23, 2015, from 1 to 5 p.m., in the community room of the Turners Falls branch of the Greenfield Savings Bank. Light refreshments will be served.
For more information, please contact us.