Caregiver Question | 05/18/23

I was relieved when Dad stopped driving, but now I’m his driver and it’s a full time job. Help!

DEAR CARALLEL: My father is 86 years old and living his best life. He is social and independent and we consider ourselves lucky that his biggest challenges are diminishing eyesight and hearing.

Both have gotten quite a bit worse in the past two years so I was very relieved when he agreed to stop driving a few months ago. Dad loved his Chevy Malibu and was sad when we sold it, but other than that, it was a pretty easy transition. I feel fortunate for this too.

The only problem is that I’ve become his chauffeur. I give him rides to the coffee shop every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, rides to the golf course so he can see his buddies, rides to his appointments; you name it and I take him there.

I would never not take him to an appointment, and I don’t want him to miss out on the things he likes to do, it’s just taking so much time, it’s practically a full time job. Even the gas money is starting to add up. How can I make this easier on myself? –Rita in Worcester, MA

DEAR RITA: Wow, I’m exhausted just reading about your father’s social calendar 😀.   What an active gentleman!

I relate to your point on not wanting him to miss out on the things he likes to do. He’s lucky to have you and the good news is that I have a few ideas on how you might lighten your load as his ‘chauffeur’.

Before I start though, it’d be good for you to make a list of his schedule and/or transportation needs. You listed out much of it in your email, but if you had a list of his regular trips to coffee or the golf course combined with two or three months worth of his appointments, that will make it easier to fill in the gaps.

Ok, here are the tips.

Ask family and friends
We’ll start with the most obvious first. This isn’t an option for everyone but I mention it in case it is for you. If there are family and friends (yours or your Dad’s) that you can ask to pitch in, ask them if you haven’t already.

I struggled with this when I was caring for my mother but ultimately learned that people want to help more often than not, and will do so as much as they can.

And how great would it be if one of his coffee buddies could take your Dad to the coffee shop on one or two of his ‘regularly scheduled’ days?!?

There’s a potential added bonus here too because this can be a nice opportunity for family/friends to catch up and spend some quality time in small bits. 

Ask your Dad’s health insurance company 
It’s worth calling Member Services at your father’s health plan. If you’re an authorized representative on his account, you can call on your own. If not, you’ll need to have your Dad with you when you make the call. Either way, be sure to have his insurance card because you’ll need his Member ID. 

Many health plans offer a wide range of supplemental benefits that can be really helpful. Including various forms of transportation services! So it’s worth the call to see what your Dad may be eligible for. 

Inquire with your local senior center, faith based community, and Area Agency on Aging
If you’re a regular reader of these emails, you could’ve probably guessed I’d mention your local Area Agency on Aging at some point. Well here you go, and it’s for good reason! 

Each agency is unique but in most cases they’re a treasure trove of information and people who want to help. I highly recommend calling or visiting the center near you (click here to find yours) and seeing what transportation programs they can point you to. 

Additionally, if you or your Dad attend church or if he’s a member at his local senior center, that’s a great place to ask as well. They are often plugged into local programs that rely on volunteers to help the community in a variety of ways. 

Check on city or county services 
Another call worth making is to your Dad’s city or county. Most local municipality transit authorities have programs where older adults or people with disabilities can get transportation, usually at a discounted rate. 

I recognize that it takes time to do this research but I think it will be time well spent because I suspect you’ll find at least some of the help you need.

And even a little bit can make a big difference! 

All the best to you and your Dad, Rita. 

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

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