By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some medical escort services that help seniors get home after a medical procedure? I need to have a colonoscopy, but my doctor’s clinic won’t schedule my appointment unless I supply them with a name and phone number of the person taking me home afterward. I live alone with no family nearby, and my friend doesn’t drive anymore. Any suggestions?
Need a Lift
Good question! Finding “door-through-door” medical escort services for outpatient screenings and procedures that involve anesthesia can be challenging for older patients without nearby family or friends to rely on.
Door-through-door escorts that most clinics require is a safety measure. With a colonoscopy, for example, patients often receive an anesthetic, like propofol, or a narcotic such as Demerol or fentanyl, combined with anti-anxiety medication like Versed or Valium.
These drugs affect the brain, and they can stay in the system for four to six hours. So, what’s needed is someone to escort you out of the building, take you back home and see you into it.
While there’s no one simple solution to this medical escort problem, there are wide variety of local service providers, nonprofits and home-care companies that may be able to assist you. But what’s available to you will depend on where you live.
A good first step in making medical escort arrangements is to talk to your health care provider that’s doing the procedure to find out if their clinic offers transportation services or if they can refer you to a local medical escort service or person who can help you. If not, see if you can remain in the clinic for an extended period of time, until the drugs wear off, so you can safely drive yourself home or hail an Uber, Lyft or taxi to take you.
If these options aren’t available, here are some sources you should check into.
Area Agency on Aging (AAA): Your local AAA is one of your best resources for locating transportation services and should be able to refer you to medical escorts available in your community. To find your AAA call the Eldercare Locater 800-677-1116 or visit Eldercare.acl.gov.
Local nonprofit groups: The National Volunteer Caregiving Network (NVCNetwork.org) connects about 700 community organizations nationwide, most of which provide door-through-door transportation without charge.
Shepherd’s Centers of America: There are 55 affiliates in 17 states that provide support services for older adults – see ShepherdCenters.org. Most offer escorts to and from medical appointments without charge.
Village to Village Network: There are around 250 local village networks across the country (see VTVNetwork.org) that often help with medical escorts, though there’s an annual fee – usually subsidized for lower-income seniors – to join a village.
Home-care companies: You may also be able to hire a medical escort through a home-care agency, or you can find someone on your own through websites like Care.com or CareLinx.com. Note that Medicare doesn’t cover medical escorts, but in many states Medicaid does. If you choose this option, be sure you give plenty of notice before your appointment.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.