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Posted: October 06, 2008

Practical Caregiving

Public Transportation Can Be Elderly's (and Your) Best Friend

 

Like many people, I was laid off from my day job in March after more than nine years with the company. They were having financial difficulties and I was out the door. I was a little depressed (like everyone who loses their job), and I didn’t have any idea what to do.

Many companies have had to lay off people and aren’t hiring much today. I applied to a couple temp agencies, and they have been keeping me busy. After all, the good thing is that I am again making a living. One of my jobs even gave me a free bus pass -- that was a godsend, and it really has opened my eyes. I had to get ready a little earlier in the morning, and I got home a little later, but to my surprise, I found I saved $100 to $150 a month in gas savings alone. My car just sat during the week.

What’s more, riding the bus has given me a view of the elderly that I hadn’t had before. With so many seniors using mass transit, I checked with the Metro System and found that anyone over age 65 can get bus passes for half price, and there are other options available.

I absolutely loved the experience, and it helped me appreciate the elderly, disabled and handicapped in ways I hadn’t seen them before. One of the biggest eye-openers was seeing the wonderful attitude of some of these aging or disadvantaged people.

For example, there was an adorable older couple that used the bus to get to their grocery store, doctors, and other places they needed to go. The man couldn’t drive any longer because of dementia, and she didn’t drive at all. But they didn’t just sit at home complaining; they got busy and found a way to do what they wanted to do. It wasn’t as convenient as when they would hop in their car and drive – and public transit wasn’t their first choice -- but it was another way to accomplish what they wanted to do. They were happy they were still independent and could still get out amongst people. In short, they were still in control of many aspects of their life.

There also was a woman who couldn’t stand up straight and needed an advanced walker. She was always smiling, though. The city bus can lower itself and lower a metal plate to the street so someone with a walker or wheelchair can board the bus.

The woman with the walker was able to continue working because of public transit. Some days she didn’t feel the greatest, but we all have those days. She could live a productive, fulfilling and quite independent life where she didn’t depend on everyone else. I never heard her complain about anything. She simply felt she was blessed to be able to live such a “good life.” And, she was right. Just think of people who starve to death in other countries and they can’t leave their frightening situation. We are so blessed!

If your loved one no longer wants to help themselves, give them this article to read or read it to them. Their attitude needs to change. If you can encourage them to try, they’ll become much happier. You may need to consult their doctor, and he may prescribe an antidepressant, but life can be so much richer for them, if they will just do something to help themselves.

We all are going down this road of life. We all tend to deny the fact that we are getting older and understand what that means. We will have physical pain at times. And eventually we will all die. But what we should be concerned with today is making the most of our life – even with the real or imagined “barriers” of aging. We cannot foresee the future, but we can do what we must to make today the best day of our lives.

Beside the big city buses, there are other means of transportation your loved one might use. Transportation departments have small buses for transporting the elderly and handicapped. Call city hall and ask what transportation services are available for the elderly. Don't forget to ask about volunteer programs. Some cities have formed solid volunteer transportation programs. Also ask about any discount or voucher programs that are available.

Once you know what transportation is available for your loved one, be sure to get these questions answered:

  • What is the cost?
  • Is there a membership fee?
  • What area does that service cover, and is there a limitation on the distance they will travel?
  • Are there requirements or limitations for those they will provide transportation for?
  • When do they provide transportation? Days? Nights? Weekends? Holidays?
  • Are the rides provided for social reasons as well as medical or for shopping?
  • Do they provide rides for people in wheelchairs? How do they handle someone in a wheelchair?
  • Is there an attendant in the vehicle to help your loved one, or just a driver?
  • Will someone go into the home to escort your loved one?
  • Are they on time or do they occasionally run late?
  • Will other people be riding with your loved one? If so, how long will your loved one have to be in the vehicle while others are being picked-up or dropped off? 

Remember that you also can cut down on transportation costs by having meals delivered, receiving medicine by mail, shopping by catalog, coordinating rides with other people to share costs, and by taking shorter trips whenever possible.

 

© 2008 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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