To Drive or Call an Ambulance: Plan Ahead

Call an Ambulance
Couple of lovely senior with healthcare. old people health concept vector illustration.

When an emergency strikes when caring for a senior, planning ahead makes the greatest
difference in how the situation resolves itself. Increasingly, people in emergency situations are using ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft to get to the hospital, typically citing costs and
efficiency (including being able to choose the hospital where you end up). Ambulance rides can cost patients thousands of dollars, particularly if they are without health care insurance coverage. But rideshare drivers can turn down people in an emergency, and they do not have the driving privileges that emergency vehicles do.

It may be cheaper, but using a ride-sharing app to get your loved one to the hospital in case of an emergency is a risky business. If at all possible, plan ahead and remain close to a hospital if you think a health emergency is likely, avoiding travel during extremely busy times of the year, inclement weather, or extremely rural places, we’re getting to a hospital takes more time and may have further risks.

When to Ride Share

Some cities and hospitals have begun to investigate when situations call for emergency services, but not an emergency services vehicle. For low-risk injuries, especially if you are not alone, ride sharing may be an effective way to get to the hospital. You always run the risk of being rejected by a rideshare driver, but odds are someone will agree to get you to the hospital. If your injury is low-risk (as in you will definitely survive this emergency, and not leave an unsuspecting stranger with copious amounts of blood to clean from their interior) and roads are clear and safe (as in, it is not rush hour), you may consider a rideshare app over call an ambulance.

When to Call an Ambulance

However, for severe or acute emergencies, such as an injury that is bleeding heavily or a stroke, or if it is a high-traffic time, call 9-1-1 and get an ambulance. This is a better option for serious emergencies because you can begin to get medical treatment in call an ambulance—in case of a stroke, that kind of care means saving your brain’s health or the health of your loved one’s brain.

Additionally, ambulances can go faster than other cars and call for traffic to move out of the
way; moving quickly in an emergency means that you will arrive at the hospital more quickly. But… The Cost!

In many cases, people will drive themselves or friends to the hospital if they can rather than calling for an ambulance. Ambulance rides are prohibitively expensive for many Americans, particularly those on a fixed income or without insurance. Evaluate your risk accordingly, but keep in mind that health is priority number one. Ultimately, you should work with other caregivers and aging services in your area to develop a plan for what you will do if your loved one faces an emergency.

It helps to know that there is always a future beyond one given emergency. If this is an issue of importance to you and your loved ones, increased interest in government intervention in health care costs may be a political issue for you. Consider supporting local and national candidates for office who seek to lower healthcare costs, or consider running for office on such a platform yourself. The cost of healthcare dis-proportionally affects seniors, who receive a large amount of the healthcare services offered around the world, and they will only receive fair treatment when we involve ourselves in the political and economic processes available to us. Mobilizing yourself and your community to support seniors and their healthcare needs is an important political act and one that will only happen when individuals and caregivers work together.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Think it’s a stroke? 4 reasons it’s better to call 9-1-1 than drive yourself to the hospital.”, May 23, 2017. Available at

Samuel, Leah. “For a trip to the ER, some are opting for Uber over an ambulance.” STAT News, April 5th, 2017. Available at