Hi all, I'm looking for a professional opinion about whether you think this could be a worthwhile endeavor in your community. My grandmother has dementia, and it gets worse when she's alone in the house. When she tries to drive, she forgets where she is going.

We have an idea to use an already established, 100% free carpooling app (it's actually designed for parents with school-aged kids, already used by parents across the United States) that lets caregivers and activity centers arrange carpools to activities for seniors in the community, and lets them discover nearby activities and carpools. It's not like Uber or Lyft--it's totally free and voluntary for everyone involved.

The app lets the caregiver input a pickup address for each senior and destination, and it organizes the most efficient route for whoever is driving to pick up everyone, and keeps loved ones in the loop with real-time notifications (each rider has a "related adults" section for those who want to keep up to date of their whereabouts).

For our town theater, it's a win-win--seniors rely on a recurring ride to weekly performances where they socialize and stimulate their minds, and the theater gets a bigger audience!

Please let me know what you think. I'm trying to decide if it's worth the effort to try and get this started in other communities, and who to contact! I'd love to see seniors in my grandma's situation be able to get out more.

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I like this idea a lot -- in theory. I also share concerns raised by other posters.

My first thought was about liability. Our PCA was not allowed to drive my husband at all. The agency was not set up to deal with the liability. Since a program like this is working for school children, there is no doubt a way to handle this. But it is something I'd get resolved before I put a lot of effort into such an app.

I suppose that all the school children have a smart phone. That wouldn't be the case for seniors. Could they call from their landlines and say, "Yes, I'm going this week," and then the driver would be there at the end of the event, so no one needs to call? How does this work for your theater?

I don't think this would work for people with dementia, unless a minder went along. But for older people with no significant impairments this might be perfect. And there are a whole lot of us in that situation. I'm 73 and have no problems with driving, except that I hate it. Would I use a service like this? Let me think this through. I go to a book club at a senior center in a nearby suburb, every other week. What if I could sign up to use the carpool for that? I would be responsible to call to inform them if I was not going. Of the 6 club members, let's say 4 would like this service. The car/van picks me up, and then picks up each of the other people. We live in at least two different suburbs (maybe more) and the total route is perhaps 30 to 40 miles. Allow time for each stop. I would probably have to be picked up an hour before the club meets. And it would probably take an extra hour to get home. Would I spend two hours coming and going for a meeting that lasts 90 minutes? Hmm. Maybe, especially if I like chatting with the other people being picked up. But some days I barely have enough energy for the meeting itself.

I think this would work best for people who live fairly close together (in the same school district, perhaps) and for events that occur on a regular schedule. Are your seniors going to a weekly performance an example of that?

I think the idea is worth exploring. But check out the show-stoppers first.

First question would be the liability issue, especially since the lines of distinction are I think blurred between volunteering and providing a service (not for pay).

Who reviews the drivers' policies to determine if liability coverage is adequate? Who vettes their driving records?

How are assistive device issues handled? I.e., if someone needs oxygen, do you determine who allegedly has experience in handling oxygen tanks and cannulas, error messages, and potential emergencies? Or are patients on oxygen excluded?

In theory, it may sound great, but I've found that volunteers often don't know anything about specific medical emergencies (hence the oxygen questions) and don't have a clue how to handle an emergency.

In addition, there are other basic issues: Who vettes the drivers' driving records? Do any have tickets? Are any of them drinkers or smokers?

Even though I grew weary of driving, I tried to make it an event for my father and I to share, so we'd stop at a Dairy Queen or someplace to eat.

I think your assumption also is that most people have smart phones. Some of us don't - I could never afford the basic cost, let alone the Internet connection. And I absolutely DO NOT WANT information on my parent's whereabouts to be shared with people I don't know. I'm appalled at how (bluntly stated) stupid people are sharing their personal information, and I won't participate in any app or anything else that gathers information that could be used for inappropriate activities - i.e., anyone accessing that app could know that one of the elders would be out of the house at a given time.

And what's to prevent a criminal from using the information to his/her benefit? Do you vette all the people who participate?

So, no, I wouldn't go for something like this.

Doriann3, I agree. And never mind the minder part of the job, who really drives people around for free nowadays, considering the price of gas?

I am concerned that my mother wouldn't even be able to handle the van transportation to places if she were in AL. I think about when she gets to the medical building with her doctor's office, lab, coumadin clinic and cardiologist. She gets turned around and doesn't know where she's supposed to be (and then if she were to ask directions, she might not hear the answer).

I am concerned that I would still be expected to be her DDD (Dummy Daughter Driver) even after she moved into AL. And I would refuse. What's the point? I'm not allowed back into the medical examining rooms. I can just imagine the verbal abuse I would be subjected to if I refused to be her free transport service. Plus, the van transportation is part of the monthly fee, so why would *I* do what the facility is being paid to do? 

She probably will never make it into AL, though.

Yeah, I always hate pooping on people's ideas, because new ideas are what makes the world go 'round! But....

My mom is of a generation that would never trust ANYTHING organized online. She wouldn't have trusted it even before she had dementia. Also, she only (very) grudgingly lets my closest friends (whom she knows well) drive her anywhere instead of me doing it, in those times I am not available. I can't see her getting into a vehicle with a stranger, and if it's a male stranger, forget it!

The other issue I'm thinking of - which is coming up for me because I was too sick to drive mom to the hospital for dialysis one day last week - is who is going to be "in charge" of the person with dementia? I couldn't just put mom in a cab or anything like that, with no one waiting for her at the door where the cab would drop her off. People with dementia can't just be dropped off at their destination and trusted to manage themselves from there. Most of them need a "minder" 50-100% of the time (and you never know how "with it" they're going to be at any given moment). If a driver were shepherding 3 or 4 people to a place, would that person also be in charge of corralling them once they arrived?  Who would be the responsible person making sure they don't wander off, or get confused or end up in the wrong part of wherever they're supposed to be?  Then it becomes a job, for which a person should be paid, in my view.

My mother has Alzheimer's. She's very paranoid and suspicious with strangers (people she no longer remembers.) All day long, she wants to go out. She constantly asks me where I plan to go so she can tag along. I do try to take her out twice a day. But it is getting to be too stressful for me and my kids.

Couple months ago, I hired an acquaintance to take my mom out a couple times a week. It was working fine for about a month and a half then my mom decided she didn't like the person anymore. When I asked her why, she said she didn't like the way that person talked and her looks. So, now she is not going anymore with that acquaintance. She's back to sticking to me like a leech. I HATE IT.

She also refused to go to the hair salon that she had gone for close to a year because she didn't like the way the 'girls' there talked. I had to drive her around to 3 other hair salons for her to check out before she agreed to go in and get her hair cut. I will not be surprised if she refuses to go to that same salon next time.

Alzheimer's makes my mom extremely paranoid. Public transportation for her? Not in her lifetime.

I think it’s a wonderful idea in theory, and might be a good idea in practice for some. I can’t see it working for my dad. He’s totally averse to new ideas, especially those that involve technology like an app even if he’s not the one having to use it, and if he did consent, he’d be correcting the drivers driving, choice of route, and talking his/her head off. I can see it working for a senior not as averse to new things as my dad, but it’d be a no go for the king of set-in-his-ways

Seconding Barb. No need to saturate the market with something that elders don’t quite understand — and yes, it makes perfect sense to us. Made all the worse because they’ll sabotage it with their paranoia, random anxiety and declining executive function.

My Mom was a bad passenger since middle age. And like Barb’s mom, was conviced that any driver was lost if he/she took a route that Mom didn’t know. And Mom did not suffer in silence!

Age made this worse, worse and so much worse. I set up Mom with her county’s free senior transit program. She smiled and thanked me. And propped up her green membership card on the kitchen windowsill, like it was a cherished family photo. Never used.

Hi Barb, thanks for your quick response! I agree with you that it is ideal to travel with someone who you know and trust. My grandma isn't living in an independent living facility, so I thought that maybe this would be a carpool solution for seniors who know each other and are traveling to the same recurring activities, and the driver would be a familiar member of the activity staff or a COA member. Thanks for helping me brainstorm!

There are various ridesharing and carpooling apps out there for seniors. One Im aware of is GOGrandparents.

Here's the issue. My mother was very very averse to being driven by someone she didn't know. My SIL bought her a limo ride so my mom could go visit her elderly sister 40 Mike's away. My mom described the trip as "harrowing" because the driver took " the wrong way" i.e., not the route SHE used. (Hint. There is more than one way to get to your sister's house mom). A cab ride to a medical lab for a test was upsetting and hair-raising because the driver was "lost the whole time".

I'm not sure about other elders, but my mom wouldn't use cabs or ride shares. The local bus provided by her Independent Living facility was acceptable, but she claimed it had a terribly uncomfortable ride.

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