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Sunday, October 22, 2023

What to Do for Your Ride Home After a Procedure

Solo adults often have to delay procedures because they can’t find a ride home from the hospital or surgical center.

You know you need that colonoscopy, and your vision is getting cloudier while you wait for cataract surgery. The problem isn’t the procedure itself, but the requirement that someone be there to drive you home. 

According to the 2022 Census Bureau report, 42% of Americans aged 65 and over are in single-person households. Many of those have no relatives who can drive nearby. To schedule a procedure involving sedatives or painkillers, they must rely on friends who may resent the task or feel overburdened, while the patient feels like a heel for imposing on even the most willing driver.

The problem is “rampant,” says Janet Seckel-Cerrotti, executive director of Friendship Works, a nonprofit where trained volunteers provide free medical rides in the Boston area. “We see it every day. It’s hard on your dignity.”

Why can’t you just call an Uber or Lyft, or grab a taxi home?

Why You Need an Escort

General anesthesia can leave you drowsy, dizzy, or with impaired coordination. Even if you feel fine, you may not realize you are not your usual self. Even conscious sedation can make you groggy. Eye surgery can alter your depth perception and vision, making you unsafe on the road.

“The type of medicine you receive, how long the procedure lasts and other medications you may be taking can alter how long the effects last,” says Khoi Le, a general surgeon. “To minimize or eliminate day-of-surgery transportation issues, we recommend you arrange a ride before arriving at the hospital or facility where your procedure is being performed.”

Who Counts as a Driver Escort

Basically, the facilities and doctors are protecting themselves against lawsuits, even if it’s a one-in-a-million chance you’ll cause an accident or get hurt on the way home. That’s why your teenage grandchild probably can’t drive you, and neither can the rideshare or taxi driver who stays outside and won’t walk you into your home. 

If you’re thinking of fudging it, like paying the driver extra to come into the facility and pose as your buddy, just make sure he or she will walk you into your house or apartment. Some facilities require your “friend” to stay on site throughout the procedure, which can take several hours for even a simple operation as you check in, meet your medical team, wait for an operating room, etc. 

Ride Services

Luckily, there are some options. Medicaid pays for medical transportation services, although state policies vary widely. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, look for a nonprofit group in your area. 

The National Volunteer Caregiving Network offers rides, and so does Shepherd’s Centers of America, available in 17 states.  The Village Movement is another nonprofit to try. Others have used volunteers from their local church or community institutions where you can volunteer to earn credit that can be used for rides. 

Your Area Agency on Aging or Eldercare Locator can help connect you with a group that provides rides in your area.

Home-care companies may also be able to throw you a lifeline with trained personnel who may also be able to stay with you after you arrive home, but expect to pay for their services. Be sure to hire someone far in advance of your procedure since there is a general shortage of staff across the country. 

Check With Your Doctor

Finally, it can’t hurt to check with your provider to see if there’s an alternative you can both be happy with. An in-home test for colon cancer may be accurate enough to forego the usual colonoscopy. Cataract surgery can be performed without IV anesthesia. You may be able to replace the usual sedative with a short-acting one. And some facilities will allow you to stay for several hours while the drugs work their way out of your system and you are safe to drive. 

Living alone definitely has its advantages, but easily finding someone to give you a ride to and from a healthcare procedure is not one of them. You may have to reach out to local nonprofits or talk to your doctor, but there are alternatives that can save you from having to lean on your friends to get your health needs met.