Did you know there is a company that is specializes in transporting individuals with dementia and other significant medical needs across long distances?

By Steve Moran

Have you ever had this problem?

A family comes to your community looking for assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing for one of their family members. After touring and talking with your staff, they fall in love with your community . . . but then you discover their loved one, the prospective resident, lives 1,000 miles away.    

It might very well be that if it is a day’s drive, you would be willing to send a team member with the family to pick up the resident. But what if that won’t work?  

After speaking at the Southern California CALA conference last fall, I had a chance to meet Sevy Gambs, the founder of Travel Care LLC — an Arizona-based company that specializes in transporting individuals with dementia and other significant medical needs across long distances.  

How It Works

The typical scenario is a senior living community that finds themselves with an opportunity to move a new resident into their community except that the prospective resident is in a different state or across the country. Particularly if they have dementia, the idea of driving or flying them is daunting to impossible without significant help.  

This becomes a problem for both the family and the community. This is where Travel Care comes in. Either the family or the community can reach out to Travel Care and they will begin a discovery process to figure out what it will take to create and execute a successful trip. The elements of a successful trip include:

  1. Figuring out what will make the resident most comfortable – This can be relatively easy for someone who has an understanding of the more complex medical needs of an individual with dementia.

  2. Determining what level of support the resident will need  Whether CNA, EMT, nurse, PA, nurse practitioner or physician and, in almost every case, a family member will be included in the transport team (however, it is not required).

  3. Figuring out the right mode of transportation – Which could be just about anything from commercial air service (most common for longer trips) to ambulance, charter air, non-medical transport and/or black car service.

  4. Figuring out the optimal schedule – Which, in most cases, would be the quickest trips; however, in other cases, the trip might require more stops.

The Costs

It is not particularly cheap, yet most of the time it is not as expensive as you might think. They do everything they can to keep the cost as affordable as possible. For instance, if a family has airline miles, they are welcome to use those miles rather than purchasing tickets for cash.  

I asked for an example and Sevy described an elderly individual who was being discharged from rehab in New York state. The family needed to move to Arizona. The trip took two days (day 1 to get the team to New York) and it included 3 first-class airline tickets (for the person being transported, 1 family member and 1 caregiver). It also included black car service on one end. The total cost: $4,800. Not a trivial sum of money, yet not impossible either.

She tells me that senior living communities handle this in lots of different ways. Sometimes even being willing to absorb the cost in lieu of the community fee, or split the cost with the family.

The Non-Traditional

They have transported individuals on hospice care — where a death during transport is a significant risk, creating significant legal and logistical complications (something they have figured out how to manage). They have even worked to provide vacation support, so that a spouse who is well and one who needs significant support can travel together, including overseas.

You may not need this service. However, when and if you do, it is definitely nice to know that it is there.