Author Topic: Advice on elder transportation?  (Read 3513 times)

Random Hangers

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Advice on elder transportation?
« on: May 05, 2016, 03:20:31 PM »
This is hella long but there's a tldr at the bottom, if that helps. I just want to make sure to give enough info for you to get a good sense of the situation. Thanks in advance!

My 87-year-old widowed grandmother got into what we thought was a minor fender bender last week, when she (and she's very forthright about this) hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal whilst in a parking lot going about 10 miles an hour. As she drives a 16-year-old Mercury Tracer, I suspected the insurance wouldn't want the hassle of fixing it. I was right; they declared it totaled. They're going to give her $3k, took away her old car and gave her a ten-day rental (a Versa, if that matters).

This is the first incident she's had, but since there is now money involved, I thought it was worth considering her driving future. How much longer do we think she can drive? Her sister is 91 and still tools around (different state), but I have no idea if she's a good driver or not.

For those of you with experience in elder car, do you have any advice? Here are the options as I see them:
1. Take the $3k and buy her a reliable, older "beater" car. She says she can go up to $5k safely.
Pros: she still has her independence. If in a few years, she gives up driving, perhaps we could sell it?
Cons: not sure how much longer she'll be driving; in the meantime, she's paying gas, oil changes, maintenance stuff and $2k/year in insurance (she swears the insurance company said her rates won't go up after the accident but we'll see how long that song and dance lasts). I worry not only for her safety but also the safety of others. Would have trouble selling the car if the reason she gives up driving is due to another wreck.

2. Assuming she'll only drive for say, 3 more years and we'd have to look into another kind of transportation anyway, maybe jump on that option sooner. She'll save roughly $3k/year between insurance and maintenance, so maybe use that money (plus the $3k from the insurance company as a buffer/reserve) to find her a reliable car service.
Pros: she doesn't have to drive or maintain a car (she's not all that fond of driving to begin with). Most of her life is contained within a 5-mile radius of her home, so mileage-wise it wouldn't be so bad.
Cons: Most companies that I've come across run about $18-$20/hr. If we assume she has $3k/year, that's about $60/week, or about 3 hours. One long doctor appointment and the time is eaten up.

Things to consider:
*My grandmother is pretty healthy. She has some knee problems, so can't say, walk to the bus stop (she lives in suburbia anyway, so it's pretty far), but overall she's a healthy lady.

*She's also pretty darn social social. I asked her for a list of where shoes goes, how frequently, and how long she's gone, and it's quite lengthy. Even if she lines up say, a doctor's appointment with a Bible study day with grocery shopping, I think it would be more than 3 hours/week.

*She's on a fixed income (pensions, social security, etc), but I'm not intimately acquainted with her budget. She's had some big ticket-item expenses come up in the past 3 years or so: replaced the roof, somewhat major repairs to the car, got electrical replaced in the attic due to some faulty wiring my grandfather did like 40 years ago, cataract surgery, etc. Each of these ranged from several hundred to several thousand dollars, but she pulled from reserves and seems to be doing ok. I've offered to help out several times and she says it isn't necessary. Oh, and she's not eating cat food or anything to make up for these expenses, in case you're worried. She eats fairly healthy and I assume is just a good Mustachian. Hehe, picturing her with an actual mustache.

*I live about 2.5 hours away, so there isn't much I can do to physically help. I come down every other month to visit, and would be willing to come down every month if it would help, but that would really only cover grocery shopping; her other social activities are scheduled during the week. I'm the one doing the used car shopping and/or car service research, and if we go with the latter, I'd help out as much as I could (maybe with scheduling? maybe paying the bills out of her account I have access to so she doesn't have to worry about it?).

*She has family in the area, but they...aren't particularly helpful. Her two daughters (one of whom is my estranged mother) are fairly selfish and/or flaky and have been known to say they're coming by to help with things and then just not show up. My brother has always been sort of wrapped up in his own life, and now that he and his stay-at-home wife have a one-year-old, they're even more so. I miiiight be able to get them to commit to a grocery trip once or twice a month, but that's it.

*She's already getting rides from friends for certain things: the fam will pick her up if they're doing any sort of celebration, she has friends that take her to her twice-monthly night meeting at the local Masonic lodge (she won't drive in the dark), and she has other friends who take her to church on Sunday mornings (I think 'cause it's too far). So those parts are taken care of, but there's still her twice-monthly Bible study, frequent doctor's appointments (foot doctor, dermatologist, hearing doctor, general practitioner, the list goes on and on!), bank, post office, grocery store, all that good stuff and she doesn't feel comfortable relying on various people for *everything.*

*A friend suggested that someone sit in with her while she's driving, to get a sense of what kind of driver she is. I loved that idea, so have asked my brother to do so.

*I've asked my grandmother to ask around and see if there's someone in her neighborhood or church who might be available a few times a week (paid, of course). I think even if we could find someone for say, $12 or $15, it would help stretch a buck. If I were a stay-at-home mom with kids in school, this would be a great way to make a bit of extra dough, right?

*Has anyone used care.com? I looked into it, but I don't know if their premium, paid service (I guess where you can look at reference letters and such?) is worthwhile or if it's just a glorified Craigslist. Since she lives alone, I want to make sure she's safe.

*Speaking of safe, my boss sort of jokingly suggested Uber. It sounds great in theory, since then it would just be straight transportation without paying someone to wait around on an hourly basis, but I'm just nervous about it, even if we could train her how to use the app (well, and get her a smart phone). To be fair, I've never used the service...

*I think I've gotten her to agree to try out a car service once she gives up the rental car. At the very least, it'll buy me a little more time to find her a used car, if that's the way we decide to go. The plan would be to find one here, get it checked out by our mechanics (she goes to like a Pep Boys down there) and drive it down to her.

Tldr; Grandma may be getting too old to drive. Should we roll the dice and buy her a car (an older Focus, Fit or the like)? Or is it better for everyone to suck it up and pay for an alternate form of transportation?

Cassie

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2016, 04:25:18 PM »
I would ride with her before deciding. My Mom drove until she died at almost 90 and her sister is 91 and just had to give up driving due to her eyesight.  My FIL drove until the day he died at 91.  If she drives fine then I would get her a car. It is great that she is so social. My Mom was the same way.

Catbert

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2016, 05:07:12 PM »
My MIL started having driving issues (actually she had many more"incidents that we knew).  We were 1500 miles away and she was 12 miles on country roads from anything.  Her neighbor, a SAHM who went to the same church, was thrilled to make $10 an hour driving Miss Daisy.  MIL got rides to church and some places from friends, but otherwise worked it out with the neighbor.  At $10 an hour $3000 would buy 300 hours of driving.  At 3 hours a week (keeping the math simple) that would get her 2 years of rides.

I think that's a good option if she's willing to give up driving.  Good luck with that.

WildHare

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2016, 07:01:45 PM »
Look into a caregiver from an agency.  The lowest level will be about $20 hr.  Probably 3 hr minimum. They will use their car, have insurance, be bonded, covered for work comp, etc.  .Reimbursed at IRS rate , about .54 per mile.   You don't want Grandma to hurt herself or anyone else.  This is the path I decide to take for my Mom.  She no longer owns a car, so there are no insurance costs/registration fees/maintenance/concerns of someone suing her in case of an accident.

okits

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2016, 07:13:43 PM »
No taxi service in her area?  That way she wouldn't need to learn how to use an app, just telephone when she needs a ride.

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2016, 07:41:05 PM »
Is she willing to have a driving assessment done? That might answer the question as to if she should get another car or other arrangements need to be made.

Is she in a rural area? suburban? How available are other driving services - such as Uber? If you can find a driver from Uber or similar in your area it may be possible to arrange a regular schedule, rather than paying for hourly service and having them wait during appointments or shopping.

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2016, 07:51:33 PM »
Some areas have a volunteer group that drives folks to dr appointments - usually the counters are retired seniors that still have good driving skills. I don't remember any names, but check with Drs, med practices, hospitals and social services in her area, that could take care of at least some of the trips.
What kind of driving does she have to do - crowded and heavy traffic areas, or easy light traffic? I wouldcinpsider this as part of the equation as well.
Good luck - sounds like she is still doing well. So, I would lean toward helping her continue to drive. It is great that she is already imposing limits (not driving at night).
You may also be able to reduce her insurance cost since there is no reason for full coverage on an old car.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2016, 08:45:17 PM »
Might be worth trialling going without a car for a while to see if it's viable. If not, then just buy one.

I'd almost suggest Zipcar et al, but they might be an issue for her.

She could continue to keep her licence just in case.

Although, if she's already confusing the pedals, it's probably best to reassess her driving abilities before she hurts someone.

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Frankies Girl

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2016, 11:45:26 PM »
Can someone contact her church? I have always heard that church members have volunteer groups that do just this sort of thing. Elder checks, driving to appointments/errands, sit with the sick or recovering...

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2016, 04:54:37 AM »
Have you considered asking your grandmother what she plans to do? If my 86 yr old Grandma found out that I was making plans to impact upon her driving ability/rights/lifestyle/choices, she'd tell me where to stick it fairly quickly (she's a docile old flower, my granny). Presumably she still has all her faculties, and its up to her, right? If she is incapable, or you suspect she is degrading mentally or is unsafe, then sure, work with your local licensing system to check whether she is safe to drive, but otherwise, perhaps just ask her?
(I'm 31, and nearly ran into someone in the school driveway last week, I reversed from a carpark further south than my normal park, and went to exit, totally missing the fact that I was in the entrance driveway. Was a brain fart. They happen to everyone. That alone isn't cause to presume she is unable to make choices).

former player

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2016, 07:22:25 AM »
Don't just think about the car as a separate issue, think about your grandmother's whole future.  At 87 with knee and foot problems and limited walking ability, how capable is she of staying in her current home (the one with the ongoing maintenance issues) for the foreseeable future?  Is there the possibility of a move to a more appropriate home in the locality which would reduce the need for car travel?

Apart from that, given that your grandmother has never enjoyed driving, the various suggestions for her being driven are a good way to go.  For the cost of running a car a lot of taxis/car service/Uber can be bought, and it sounds as though a lot of your grandmother's travel is regular appointments which makes this easy for her to organise.   I agree that anyone doing a lot of driving for her should be compensated rather than relying on favours.

Would a mobility scooter be any use to her in getting around her immediate neighbourhood or getting to the bus stop?

mbl

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2016, 07:25:10 AM »
There are agencies that will test your grandmother's driving ability.
First they'll give her a written test.
If she doesn't pass, they notify the DMV and her license will be suspended.

It's probably best to have her give up her driving and use Uber or some other car service.

We just did this with my Dad last year.

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2016, 08:40:30 AM »

I fear I am not directly answering your question... but hear me out.  I've now done a little bit of this twice.

1.  My mom. 
My mom had Alzheimer's.  She was a brilliant, independent woman... and doctors say she hid the dementia for a long time.  She took voluminous notes on mundane things so she could remember them hour-to-hour.  Anyway, we'd been a little worried about her.  Various scratches and dents started showing up on her car.  If I do the math, I suspect there were dents on other cars, too -- and she never really knew she hit them.... or forgot.  We were both nervous for her safety and were nervous from a liability standpoint.  If she ran over some child AND WE KNEW SHE WAS HAVING PROBLEMS... would we be able to live with ourselves?

It started by Dad having a talk with her.  You shouldn't drive.  That didn't work.  She both saw the car as her independence and just flat out couldn't remember "I shouldn't drive".

Then Dad hid the keys.  This both made her extremely angry... and didn't work.  No matter how many keys he would hide, the woman that couldn't remember to eat would dig up a spare set somewhere.

Then one day I happened to follow her home.  It was the most frightening thing I have ever seen.  She was driving at night with no lights.  She was sometimes on the wrong side of a busy road.  At one point she turned left with oncoming cars headed at her... and turned toward a ditch instead of a road.  At the last second, she saw what she was doing and corrected (towards oncoming traffic) and managed to escape without a scratch.

The following day when she was doing something else, I stole her car.  I took it to a car alarm shop and said "I'll give you $50 if you can put a secret kill switch to kill the ignition RIGHT NOW."  They jumped at it. 

This seemed to satisfy mom.  She had her car.  She still "felt" independent.  She couldn't figure out how to start it.  When they went somewhere, Dad would drive her in her car magically.  She was somehow emotionally fulfilled and no longer a threat.

To answer your original question: friends and family gave her rides

2.  My Mother-in-law
MIL has very mild dementia.  She was still driving.  Her car was getting old and she suddenly decided "it isn't reliable" and just stopped driving it.  In retrospect, I think she knew she had no business driving.  But she demanded my wife shop for a car for her.  We shopped for a few months to find a car she could afford that we thought she could drive.  (I.e. not too many gadgets, auto transmission, etc.)  We bought it and it sat in her garage for 3 years.  She drove it around the block one time.  Otherwise she never drove it.  But somehow, like with my mom, it represented her independence.  Friends and family gave her rides which is not overly convenient.  She lives way out in the country.  At some point we moved her to a retirement community.  We sold the car to another family member.

The point of my way-too=-long stories is: The car may represent something to her that is part of her emotional well being.  Even if you do have to arrange rides for her ... the physical car may be worth having.  If she can afford to have it sit there (and pay registration/insurance) ... even if it takes a big bite out of her budget... it may be worth it for her.  It may give her a sense of independence she can't get anywhere else.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2016, 08:56:16 AM »
My mother, now 92, lives alone and quit driving 2 years ago.  Here's what I know/can suggest:

1.  You cannot tell an elder to stop driving.  By doing so, you threaten their independence.  Old people are very stubborn (even the nicest ones) and are resistant to change.  However, when she allows your input, I would definitely encourage her to NOT buy another car.  With the small amount she drives, if she can adapt to cabs/friends rides/ whatever, all the better, both financially and for her well being.  A 90ish year old who is not working, whose world is within 5 miles, does NOT need a car.
2.  My mother quit driving on her own.  Here's what lead up to it:
      1)  A scrape the length of two doors and damaged molding which ended up being repaired with duct tape.  This was supposedly a parked truck which was sticking out too far for Mom to get through...luckily done at a super low speed.
      2)  A damaged side view mirror caused by a car with a big mirror sticking out in a narrow pass on a narrow street.
      3)  Finally, a collision at a red light, which caused Mom to jump the curb and (luckily gently) hit (and not damage) a local busines' building.  Luckily no injuries.  Smashed the grill of the car (maybe $1500 or so...).  She quit right then.

Now she gets around via one of my brothers (I live 750 miles away) or the kindness of friends/relatives.  No alzheimers involved here (her wiring is perfect, but obviously her cognitive ability to drive is no longer there...).
« Last Edit: May 06, 2016, 09:01:19 AM by frugaliknowit »

Random Hangers

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2016, 09:18:02 AM »
Thanks for all the thoughts. It's nice to be able to talk it out with people who are unbiased!

No taxi service in her area?  That way she wouldn't need to learn how to use an app, just telephone when she needs a ride.
There is, but I assume taxis get pretty expensive pretty quickly.

Some areas have a volunteer group that drives folks to dr appointments - usually the counters are retired seniors that still have good driving skills. I don't remember any names, but check with Drs, med practices, hospitals and social services in her area, that could take care of at least some of the trips.
What kind of driving does she have to do - crowded and heavy traffic areas, or easy light traffic? I wouldcinpsider this as part of the equation as well.
Good luck - sounds like she is still doing well. So, I would lean toward helping her continue to drive. It is great that she is already imposing limits (not driving at night).
You may also be able to reduce her insurance cost since there is no reason for full coverage on an old car.
I'll look into a volunteer group for her area, thanks for the tips on where to start. As for traffic, it can get pretty snarled in her area, but thankfully, she's retired so she can go out during the day when it isn't as bad. Also a good point on her insurance; I didn't think to ask what kind of coverage she has. I just assumed it was high because of her age.

Have you considered asking your grandmother what she plans to do? If my 86 yr old Grandma found out that I was making plans to impact upon her driving ability/rights/lifestyle/choices, she'd tell me where to stick it fairly quickly (she's a docile old flower, my granny). Presumably she still has all her faculties, and its up to her, right? If she is incapable, or you suspect she is degrading mentally or is unsafe, then sure, work with your local licensing system to check whether she is safe to drive, but otherwise, perhaps just ask her?
(I'm 31, and nearly ran into someone in the school driveway last week, I reversed from a carpark further south than my normal park, and went to exit, totally missing the fact that I was in the entrance driveway. Was a brain fart. They happen to everyone. That alone isn't cause to presume she is unable to make choices).
Oh, definitely not doing this arbitrarily. She automatically assumed she'd need to get a new car and wasn't even aware of any other options like a car service, so it's definitely an ongoing discussion. She's open to most possibilities at this point; doesn't seem to be leaning one way or the other. She doesn't like to drive, but she likes the independence it brings her, so she's torn just like I am.
I'd like to think she has a few years of driving left. I just thought now would be a good time to explore options since there are dollars involved.

Don't just think about the car as a separate issue, think about your grandmother's whole future.  At 87 with knee and foot problems and limited walking ability, how capable is she of staying in her current home (the one with the ongoing maintenance issues) for the foreseeable future?  Is there the possibility of a move to a more appropriate home in the locality which would reduce the need for car travel?

Apart from that, given that your grandmother has never enjoyed driving, the various suggestions for her being driven are a good way to go.  For the cost of running a car a lot of taxis/car service/Uber can be bought, and it sounds as though a lot of your grandmother's travel is regular appointments which makes this easy for her to organise.   I agree that anyone doing a lot of driving for her should be compensated rather than relying on favours.

Would a mobility scooter be any use to her in getting around her immediate neighbourhood or getting to the bus stop?
Yeah, I'm a little worried about what to do down the line. She's adamant about staying in her own house at this point (like 99% of seniors) and I saw this as a good first step. Like, if we went the route of using one of the services, they generally offer other options from cooking meals and cleaning to nursing care. Expensive, of course, but a good way to keep her comfortable. Unfortunately, major decisions like moving her to a facility are likely going to need to be made by her daughters down the road, because it'll involve major $$, powers of attorney, stuff like that and my grandmother is old school and also adamant that all that be left to them, regardless of how good they'd be at those decisions!
The scooter is a good idea, but now that I'm thinking about it, she'd have to cross a fairly busy street to get to the bus stop and I'd be worried about her timing it well (no nearby crosswalk).

There are agencies that will test your grandmother's driving ability.
First they'll give her a written test.
If she doesn't pass, they notify the DMV and her license will be suspended.

It's probably best to have her give up her driving and use Uber or some other car service.

We just did this with my Dad last year.
Can you talk a little more about what you did with your dad? Does he use Uber easily?? If you use a car service, is it one that caters to seniors or is it just one that he calls when he needs them? Does he get out of the house multiple times a week? I'm still trying to work out the scheduling details, if we go in this direction...

The point of my way-too=-long stories is: The car may represent something to her that is part of her emotional well being.  Even if you do have to arrange rides for her ... the physical car may be worth having.  If she can afford to have it sit there (and pay registration/insurance) ... even if it takes a big bite out of her budget... it may be worth it for her.  It may give her a sense of independence she can't get anywhere else.
I love long stories! (As evidenced by my oh-so-long post, lol) This was helpful, thank you. I like the idea of her having a car if she needs one, but I'd also be nervous if she took advantage of the car service for awhile, then one day decided to hop in her car and was woefully out of practice, y'know? Thankfully, she has two neighbors that she's quite close with. I/she wouldn't feel comfortable leaning on them all the time, but I think she'd be ok thinking of them as her safety net in case of emergency.

Now she gets around via one of my brothers (I live 750 miles away) or the kindness of friends/relatives.  No alzheimers involved here (her wiring is perfect, but obviously her cognitive ability to drive is no longer there...).
Thankfully, my grandmother is open to options at this point. I think it helps that my grandfather drove her around for most of their marriage, so she only started driving seriously ten years ago when he passed away and she does NOT enjoy it. I believe she's cautious/nervous most of the time, so getting a driver for her may be a blessing to her, assuming we can work it out financially. I just want her to be comfortable.

So far, the plan is to:
*Have my bro drive with her this weekend to suss out her skills/weaknesses.
*Once the rental car is given back later this month, maybe try out the services to see how she feels about them (does she feel boxed in by having to plan her schedule that far in advance, is she uncomfortable driving with strangers, etc) and to give me more time to do car research.
*Continue checking into a Driving Miss Daisy neighbor/church member situation, which would be IDEAL.
*Perhaps get her a decent small car and if so, check with her insurance to see if we can maybe reduce her rates.

I'm still up for suggestions, should any arise, and either way, I'll try to resurrect this thread with our solution in case it helps anyone else down the line. Thanks again!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2016, 01:10:43 PM »
I appreciate this thread - I have a 90-year-old grandmother who is all-there mentally - I introduced her to Carcassone on her 90th birthday and she didn't pay attention to the scoring but put in her tiles just fine, and when some scumbag pretending to be me called her recently she shut him down - but I know she is worried about her driving ability. She won't drive at night anymore and for long drives one of her nephews will help out.

MrsPete

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Re: Advice on elder transportation?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2016, 08:18:04 PM »
First, the emotional side of this problem:

She already knows she has a problem.  She's already stopped driving at night, so she's self-limiting already.  I'm 100% sure this incident has her wondering whether she needs to stop altogether.  This incident may be the thing that gives her an excuse to stop driving, and -- realistically -- if you don't face this possibility now, you probably will be facing it in another year or two ... with or without another crisis.

And still on the emotional side, you should talk to her directly about this issue.  You're not wrong to collect your thoughts and have ideas first, but -- possibly with the exception of driving -- she's a competent adult and should be treated like one. 

And the closely related legal side: 

She's mistaken the accelerator and the brake once, and it's on record with the insurance company.  Probably the police too.  What happens if she has another wreck (even if it's not her fault)?  With this incident on record, she could easily be found to be at fault simply because she "should've known" her abilities were slipping.  What if -- God forbid -- someone is hurt or killed in that accident?  Better to hurt her feelings than see her go through such an awful situation. 

Money is clearly an important issue, so consider the cost of replacing the car vs. hiring transportation:

She's getting 3K from the insurance and can pony up another 5K, you say?  So she's able to spend 8K now ... and will need to spend on upkeep, taxes, gas, insurance.  Since she drives only short distances, would it be fair to say 8K up front and  1000-1500/year to keep the car running? 

Once you know your options, you can figure up the potential cost of her using these services.  If she called for an Uber car twice a week (thinking short distances, ride to and from home), it'd probably cost her about $30 per week ... the initial 8K would last her more than five years, even ignoring the cost of keeping up the car.  I don't use Uber myself, so I'm guessing here, but I'm thinking that might be a better choice than buying a new car.

Finally, some practical thoughts:

Could she reduce her need to "go"?  For example, you don't want to take away the Bible study she enjoys, but could she invite the group to begin meeting in her home?  That'd excuse her from the need to drive. 

Do you have any type of elderly transport in your area?  We have a van that picks up the elderly and disabled.  You have to get a doctor's note to be eligible, but once you're "in the system" you can call a day ahead of time and schedule a free ride.  They'll take people to the doctor, the grocery store, Walmart -- and then come back at a pre-arranged time. 

Hiring someone to give her a ride, say, for 2-3 hours every Wednesday might be a good choice.  She could purposefully make her appointments for Wednesday, and she could keep a running list of errands she needed to run and save them for Wednesday.  No need to call for a new Uber driver every time; she'd build a relationship with the driver.  Perhaps her pastor could suggest a young mom who would welcome the possibility of making a few dollars while her children are in school, or a recently retired lady who'd like such a job?  I know a couple people who've found "caring type employment" on Care.com.