Though we may face mental or physical challenges as we grow older, for many of us its often the loss of simple skills such as driving that can be the hardest to lose, or voluntarily have to give up.
The reason for that is simple. Driving is more than just a physical act, it represents freedom and independence. We all remember the pride of passing our driving test and finally having a licence. And some of us will appreciate the panic and isolation felt when we’ve had to temporarily stop driving, to recover from surgery or having a baby for example. Essentially that emotion intensifies as the years pass by and driving becomes an ever more integral part of our daily lives.
With modern families living ever further apart and public transportation often scarce, just what options are available to us and our elderly parents when the time inevitably comes that they can no longer drive themselves?
The first step in finding a solution to this new way of life is to first work out what the challenges are. That means making a list of all the journeys your parent would usually take in their own car. Consider their usual visits for socialising, shopping or a weekly place of worship as well as any one-off journeys such as annual hospital check-ups or monthly banking.
Once you have an idea of the requirements you can divide them into regular and essential versus irregular and “for fun”. The distance and days of the week/times of the day will give you a much clearer picture of exactly what their transport needs are. Working together, you can try to cover the essential journeys first – those that will cause them the most anxiety to miss or be late for, and then move on to tackling the social driving (bearing in mind this can be as important for keeping mental ill health and general loneliness at bay).
Finding Transportation Services
Finding transportation services for an elderly parent who can no longer drive is an obvious on the to-do list, but the real question is; where can I find them?
An easy place to start is to make a list of all the informal support services you can think of – family nearby (children and even grandchildren!), neighbours, friends in the same town/city who may still be attending similar functions or events.
Then it’s a good idea to compare this to the journeys list and see what can be easily covered off, such as the parent taking a ride to church with a neighbour or getting a lift to a monthly community event with a friend.
For the remaining journeys, some research may provide alternatives in transportation services for things like hospital appointments, where there may be a pick up and drop off service available by minibus or taxi for example.
The next step is public transport. Provided your elderly relative has no mobility issues, can you work out the nearest bus or train stop for them? Can you see any timetabling that would match the usual journeys they make and will the costs fit within their budget? Many transport services will provide timetables in large font too, if vision is an issue inhibiting them.
There may also be door-to-door driving services available in your area, either for private hire (which can be expensive) or by way of support schemes and care packages through the local social services or charities. These can be much better than using a local taxi service because the driver will also assist with groceries and getting in and out of the car.
Family Support Is Important
While family and caregivers will want to do all they can to help an elderly parent cope with the loss of independence in their car, the fact is that there will still be hurdles along the way.
It could be as simple as the vehicles people drive not being suitable (climbing into a 4×4 for example), while the other common problem is simply time as children and grandchildren are juggling work and other commitments, particularly during the day time.
Then among families this kind of support can cause friction, perhaps because one member feels they are doing more or because no one is taking charge of organising the week causing last minute call outs.
So open communication and organisation is vitality important in managing the transition, as is keeping an open mind. For your elderly parent this is about not feeling a burden, while also not being too demanding. For the family and carers, this means being open minded about options and always looking for creative solutions to problems, while not being afraid to ask for help outside the family unit.
The goal is to create a new, customised transportation system that enables your older mum or dad to continue to do all the things that keep them healthy in mind and body, keeping them safe and bringing them joy. Take comfort that it can be achieved!
This article was written by Olympic Lifts.
Olympic Lifts are a family-owned company, providing stairlift installations to families across the UK and Ireland for over 30 years. To find out more, visit olympiclifts.ie