SENIOR CORNER: Don’t let a disability keep you from the doctor’s office

SENIOR CORNER: Don’t let a disability keep you from the doctor’s office
Terah Chamberlin

Ms. Smith is a 93-year-old Alexandria resident who worked for many years as a nurse. Now retired, she is frail, suffers from arthritis and needs a walker to get around. These ailments make it difficult for her to leave her home without assistance.

But Smith has no children, and her only means of support — her sister — passed away. She struggles getting to doctor appointments and was missing out on much-needed care.

When someone is elderly or has disabilities, routine tasks such as attending doctor appointments can become difficult. When we hear about seniors whose health deteriorates because they’re not getting medical attention, we wonder: “What’s wrong with them? They should know that if they don’t get to the doctor they are only going to get worse. … Why aren’t the children helping more?”

Seniors like Smith — or individuals with disabilities — may miss their appointments because they’re physically unable to get to them. They may not have family or friends available to go with them.

Even if loved ones are around, they may be overburdened by taking care of a relative in addition to their children. Likewise, loved ones may not be able to take leave from work. Their employer may not provide the flexibility to take time off to attend to their family member’s needs.

The door-thru-door transportation program offers a solution for people like Smith and families facing this problem. This program provides a trained health care aide to accompany individuals who are 18 or older to medical appointments.

The aide provides a variety of assistance during the appointment. For example, Smith’s aide assists her with getting dressed, helps her get in and out of the cab, sits with her during her appointments, and ensures she’s settled after returning home.

“Her aide became much more than just an assistant,” said Lauren Ridge, who is Smith’s social worker at the Alexandria Division of Aging and Adult Services. “She offers companionship and provides much-needed support organizing [her] care.”

Door-thru-door is available to residents of Alexandria and Arlington County. There is no cost for the aide, but participants are responsible for arranging transportation to the appointment. Transit organizations, such as DOT and MetroAccess, usually let aides accompanying a senior or person with disabilities travel for free.

The program is funded through a federal new freedom grant awarded by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and is a partnership between Alexandria, Arlington and Home Care Partners Inc.

For more information or to arrange for an aide to accompany you or a loved one on a medical appointment, call 202-638-0736.
– The writer is an aging and disability resource coordinator for the Alexandria Division 
of Aging and Adult Services.