The first nursing home where I lived 17 years ago had a full-size, lift-equipped van. The lift was in the rear and there were tie-downs for two wheelchairs. If a wheelchair resident could transfer easily to a seat, they could go along on outings.
On my first outing, I found the rear-entry lift to be a bit tricky to navigate. I was concerned when I saw wires hanging from the lift mechanism. The van was supposed to hold 14 people, but it was a tight fit. The air-conditioning on that van did not cool well and I was concerned about elderly residents becoming too warm in the summer.
Meanwhile, my full-size, lift-equipped van was parked in the facility lot, but I seldom got to ride in it. Several months later, I asked staff if they knew someone I could hire to take me out. They gave me names and I did hire someone who took me out a couple of times. I was surprised by how weird I felt shopping in a store and eating in a restaurant since I had not done it for quite a while.
For me, a ride in an ambulette was fine if the driver talked to me. However, if he or she was quiet, the ride seemed much longer.
When I first asked if I could pay for an aide or aides to take me to medical appointments, I was told no. But since my van was always available and drivable, the facility reconsidered and allowed aides to drive me to medical appointments. After my appointment, we had lunch. When two aides took me and we were out five to six hours, the facility charged me $200—300 per outing. Although I did not do it often, it felt good to get out. If one aide used my van to take me to local medical appointments, I was charged less. If the aide just dropped me off at and picked me up later, there was no charge.
Eventually, the facility acquired a minivan to transport ambulatory or easily transferred wheelchair residents to medical appointments. Because appointments frequently ran long the driver stopped for lunch at fast food places with dollar menus. Residents liked eating out, and medical appointments became more of a treat rather than a drudgery.
When that facility was sold, it shared a newer, handicapped-accessible van with another community. Residents enjoyed riding in the spacious van with its large windows. Scheduling activity outings was difficult, however, because residents at both facilities wanted to go on frequent outings.
When the facility was sold again, the owner contracted with different facilities to use their vans. One day when my driver was taking me out, we saw the medical transportation aide struggling to get a resident into the van. The more she pushed the resident's wheelchair, the more the lift tilted. Fearing an accident, I asked my driver to assist her. They worked together and removed the resident from the lift.
My current facility has a larger van with two rear wheelchair tie-downs. It has a lift but since it is older sometimes it must be cranked. When I made a short trip in the facility's minivan, I was surprised that I had to face sideways. The van looks good except for a smashed front headlight which makes the van look like it is winking.
While a transportation aide takes residents from three facilities to medical appointments, at times she does take individual residents out. One male resident likes going to a franchise sub shop and, occasionally, shopping.
I know being able to get out of the facility gives me something to look forward to and serves as a stress reliever. I also think frequent outings give residents something to plan for and foster hope.