Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What does love ask ?

This post isn't that unique so many people go through challenges like this. I choose to share it because I hope that my experience can help someone else.

My Mom is the most important person in my life. She is 83 years old lively, as sharp as a tack, except when it comes to balancing her check book, but she can go on line and find out if the government is late with her Social Security check. And she is waiting for the money that "The President is going to give to us Seniors"

The problem is recently she had an accident. She ran into another car, the young man and his wife were very kind to her and I am grateful so grateful for that. Unfortunately the insurance totaled her car because it was old and not worth much. We can find a way to get a new used car.

What's the problem you ask ? I've never doubted my Mom's ability to drive. Over the past few years she has slowly but surely reduced her driving according to her limitations. She doesn't drive at night, she doesn't drive when the roads are wet, she doesn't drive on the Thruway (interstate). She basically goes to Church (a lot) to the supermarket, to the beauty parlor and to Kmart. After the accident I just didn't know how well she was able to drive and I didn't feel that I was qualified to judge if she is a good driver or not. I know without a doubt that she would be heart broken if she ever injured anyone, and I know that if she had another serious accident and injured herself or someone else I would never forgive myself.

What does love ask of me in this situation... What does love call me to do ?

A car is so important for senior citizens. They face so many challenges in the "golden years" of their life. Some carry the cross of sickness, many the lose of a loved one. Some have to move out of their home or miss their extended families who live far away. A car in small way gives them control over a world which in so many other ways seems to be slipping away. When the car goes it is really changes their life styles... Yet... sometimes the car has to go.

I didn't know what to do so I spent sometime on the web researching. I found that two hospitals in Western New York offer driver assessment programs for seniors. The costs vary significantly but these programs are offered through the physical therapy departments and are pretty intensive. We chose the driver assessment program at The Erie County Medical Center. THEY DO NOT TAKE YOUR LICENCE AWAY IF YOU FAIL (at least here in Buffalo) but they do send a complete report to your doctor who I believe has the option of asking you to stop driving.

Kathy the receptionist was great to my Mom. She had already calmed me down when I had called in for information. When we arrived everyone did their best to put Mom at ease. She was very nervous. Lisa the physical therapist talked to her got her medical history and listened to my concerns in a very calm friendly and professional way. She tested her strength, her dexterity, her coordination, she performed some cognitive tests that were confusing even to me but Mom passed them. They tested her sight, her peripheral vision, and her depth perspective. With a machine that had a gas and a brake pedal they tested her response time. She did very well on that test. Then after all of that they took her out on the road for a 20 minute driving test. As they walked out the door I hear Lisa tell my 83 year old Mom. "Don't be nervous just pretend we are old friends and you are taking me for a ride" Mom passed. Thanks be to God

When they came back Lisa offered us some excellent suggestions. None of us ever drive with Mom because when she goes with us we drive. From now on every two months or so the person that usually picks her up will ask her to drive and see how she is doing. Mom won't drive at night or on the highway anymore (she hasn't done so in years. ) Lisa also recommended that Mom start using alternate transportation so that when the time comes for her to give up her car it will not be such a traumatic transition. I'm not sure how far we are going to go in that direction. We shall see. Mom is very confident now and tells everyone she passed her test. This afternoon we shopped for a new used car.

I think love demanded that I ask Mom to take the assessment. I am grateful that she did so willingly even though it made her very nervous. I know our mood would have been different tonight had she not passed but she assured me that she was willing to make the necessary changes in her life if that had been the out come.

I am more comfortable. Mom is more confident.

Here is a great resource http://www.erie.gov/depts/seniorservices/older_driver/index.asp for people in similar situations who are trying to figure out what to do.

If you are in Western New York I highly recommend the Driver Evaluation Program at ECMC. They are GREAT PEOPLE with a GREAT PROGRAM. Thanks Lisa and Kathy and thanks ECMC.

Fr. Bob Schlageter

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