November 23, 2020

For older adults aging in place here in Chicago, it’s important to be able to get around safely and independently. With that being said, many elderly adults can find it challenging to get in and out of vehicles — making it all the more important that your senior loved one has reliable access to a vehicle that is safe and senior-friendly. 

From choosing the right car to seeking out automobile aids specifically designed for elderly passengers, let’s explore what family caregivers can do to help make getting around easier and safer for their senior loved ones:

1.) Look Into Professional Companion Care and Senior Transportation Services

The ability to go out and enjoy time in the community is one of the single biggest benefits of aging in place. Older adults who are able to travel freely are able to live more independently and enjoy a more social and active lifestyle — whether that means attending doctor’s appointments, running errands, seeing friends and family, or remaining involved in their community.

Unfortunately, for millions of older adults here in Chicagoland and around the country, a lack of dependable transportation is a fact of life. Over time, driving becomes more difficult for the elderly. Meanwhile, about half of all Americans 65 and older say that they do not have access to public transportation. As a result, about half of all non-drivers 65 or older say that they feel forced to “stay at home” in a given day because “they don’t have transportation options.”

We know it’s not always possible to be there to offer rides yourself — especially for busy members of the Sandwich Generation. If your loved one could benefit from dependable, safe driving services, companion care may be the right fit. 

Companion care is a specialized form of long-term care designed to give older adults the practical everyday support they need, along with the friendship and social support that makes life brighter and better. 

At Companions for Seniors, our Companions offer driving services in the comfort and safety of an insured company car. Our company vehicles are held to the highest standards for cleanliness and sanitation. 

You can trust that our Companions know how to safely help older adults enter and exit vehicles, based on their age, activity level, and personal preferences. Meanwhile, a professional caregiver can provide friendly companionship during outings, enriching the older adult’s experience through lively conversation, fun games, and quality time. And at every step of the way, you can rest assured that the Companion will be able to provide a helping hand with walking, carrying groceries, and opening doors — whatever it takes to ensure that the elder gets the support they need to have a safe and healthy trip, from beginning to end.

2.) Make the Vehicle as Senior-Friendly as Possible

Whether you are connecting your loved one with reliable transportation services or serving as a family chauffeur, we know that the thought of helping your loved one in and out of a vehicle can be daunting. 

Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your family car is as safe and comfortable as possible for elderly passengers:

  • Choose the right car. If you’re in the market for a car, you may wish to talk to senior health and safety experts to find one that will be the right fit. Generally, when looking for  a senior-friendly vehicle, it’s best to avoid SUVs and trucks that are too high off the ground, as these can be hard to clamber in and out safely. Similarly, some sport cars and compact vehicles will be too low to the ground for senior passengers. Look for a car that’s a medium distance to the ground, with wide doors and comfortable seats. Avoid two-door cars, as it can be difficult for older adults to navigate over a folded-down seat. Minivans can be a great option, as they offer a good height, lots of seating, and enough storage for wheelchairs, canes, and other personal assistive devices. 
  • Adjust the seats. If your loved one will be sitting upfront, make sure the passenger seats are high enough to see over the dash, but low enough that it’s easy for older adults to slide in and out of the car. Look for vehicles with power seats, as these can be easier to adjust forwards, backwards, up and down. In some modern vehicles, you can even create presets to get the seat ready for your elderly passengers. Similarly, one cannot overestimate the importance of buying a vehicle with leather seats.  Leather seats are helpful for seniors, because they can slide into and out of the car.  Cloth seats, can make sliding in much more difficult (especially when wearing a winter coat).
  • Clear a path to the vehicle. Make sure that there’s an open walkway from the front door to the vehicle, with no obstructions or tripping hazards.
  • Going on a longer trip? Make sure to pack a senior travel kit. Be mindful of what your loved one might need for a longer car ride, including snacks, water, a blanket, sunscreen, pillows, their daily medications, and so on. 
  • Clean the vehicle regularly. Regularly vacuum and dust the inside of the vehicle to get rid of allergens. Clean off windows so they’re bright and clean. Sanitize to kill germs and bacteria. This is especially important now during COVID-19. At Companions for Seniors, we make it a point to thoroughly disinfect our cars before and after each use. You can read more about our cleaning methods here. 

3.) Invest In Auto Aids That Make Getting Around Easier and Safer

If you are regularly transporting an elderly loved one, be sure to look into automobile aids specifically designed to make getting in and out of vehicles safer for seniors. Here are a few important tools and aids to know: 

  • Transfer board. This device makes it easier for wheelchair-bound seniors to slide in and out of the passenger seat of a car. 
  • Swivel seat. This handy gadget sits on the passenger seat, and makes it easier for older adults to safely lift their legs into vehicles. Rather than struggling or contorting, the senior simply sits on the swivel chair and gently rotates in. 
  • Seatbelt adjusters. Safely closing a seatbelt can be tricky for older adults with more limited mobility. Seat belt extenders and easy-reach pullers can make it easier for seniors with limited mobility to buckle in. For older adults who may struggle to keep their buckles latched (such as those with dementia), seat buckle guards can help prevent an accident.
  • Standing aids and support handles. There are lots of grab bars designed specifically for cars. The HandyBar, for instance, plugs into the car door and provides a helpful support bar for the elderly adult to use as they get in or out of the vehicle
  • Wheelchair lifts. When necessary, you may want to look into your options for equipping your van with a wheelchair lift. There are lots of services that can retrofit accessible devices onto your vehicle.
  • Running boards and step stools. For minivans and SUVs, these simple safety features can help seniors get a leg up, offering support and protecting their balance as they get in and out of a higher vehicle.

Live In Chicago or the Nearby Suburbs? Companions for Seniors Is Here for You

Ready to empower your senior loved ones to stay active and independent? Curious about what it takes to get started with home care or senior transportation services? We are always here and ready to keep the conversation going! 

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity at home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships

Our trained and bonded Companions can help provide a variety of services designed to help seniors age in place comfortably and safely, without having to uproot their lives and move into expensive and restrictive institutionalized care facilities. 

We will work with your family to develop a personalized care plan specifically tailored for your loved one’s needs, and your own hopes and goals as a family caregiver. We believe in fostering an open dialogue and sharing ideas; always going the extra mile with our services; and providing flexible care at the right price for every household.

We are locally owned and operated in Chicago, with service available in the city and suburbs. Our companions are available on a full- and part-time basis, and can offer assistance with grooming, bathing, running errands, attending appointments, cooking meals, doing housework, and so much more.

Have any more questions? Interested in seeing what sets our personalized home care services apart? Give us a call at 866-910-9020, or get in touch online using our contact form, available here.