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Navigation Transportation enters next phase; looks to connect dementia patients with the places they love

Dr. Bashir Easter from Navigator Transportation and Ruth Busalacchi, founder of Synergy HomeCare. Photo by Omar Waheed.

Navigator Transportation has started the data collection phase in its pilot program to better understand how it can serve its riders.

A ride service intended to benefit dementia patients, Navigator Transpiration has begun collecting data via focus groups for its pilot program. The Milwaukee based experimental transportation program is looking at how they can better serve riders throughout the first phase, funded through Milwaukee County, which will consist of 160 rides.. The service is partnered with a variety of groups.

Dr. Bashir Easter, founder of the company behind Navigator Transportation, Melanin Minded, has been working to make the service a reality after his family’s struggles with finding resources to help with their mother’s dementia.

The service has been a work in progress but is finally in the final stages of getting up and running. He invited riders, drivers, caregivers and community members out to Daddy’s Soul Food, 754 N 27th St, in Milwaukee to hear about Navigator Transportation’s next steps as it launched its focus groups stage.

“We are showing individuals in the community, Milwaukee and Wisconsin as a whole and other states, that we can provide a service to get people back in the community because we care,” said Dr. Easter.

The rides are not just for medical reasons, something Dr. Easter pushes hard, but to get people back into the communities they had to leave behind because of their condition. In the focus groups, Navigator Transportation wants to learn where people intend to go using the service. Its goal in these early stages is to try to educate those places on how to be more accommodating towards dementia patients.

Several passengers in attendance were asked where they have not been because of their condition lately. Places from barbershops, churches, the movie theater and many others were listed. Riders of the service were once able to attend all of these, but the challenges of getting there and back with dementia has forced them to stay at home or rely on family to help.

Riders like JoAnn Craft are excited to visit places they deeply miss now that Navigator Transportation can get them back into their communities.

“I love the arts — I love the symphony. I like the performing arts, so theater. It’s hard for me to find people because most of the people I’ve known and have been friends with are on this earth,” Craft said. “I have been telling myself ‘You’re a big girl. You just need to go, even if you go by yourself.’”

Craft is an avid fan of theater and the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee. She enjoys places like Holy Hill and the zoo. It has been ranged from half a decade to more since she was able to get out and visit these places.

In the information sessions, Navigator Transportation has started the process to create personal music playlists for its riders. Research has shown that music helps dementia patients become more present, safe and aware, according to Synergy HomeCare. The company specializes in at home care for the elderly and has been in partnership with Melanin Minded and Navigation Transportation, and has worked with Dr. Easter for years.

Each rider will create a playlist for their rides with songs that are hand selected by them with the help of Navigator Transportation.

The current allotment of rides for the services funded by Milwaukee County is 160. The funding currently allows for only travel in Milwaukee, but Dr. Easter wants to expand the boundaries soon as the pilot program proceeds.

Navigator Transportation will be collecting research in its focus groups in roughly six meetings through the next three months. Last weekend marks the first and they will progressively pivot aspects of the ride service as feedback and data comes in.