Our society favors those who are mobile and swift. Technology evolves to increase the speed at which our messages can be sent to make choices, make connections, and make money. How can dementia patients, painfully slowed by disease, participate in a world that seems to move faster all the time?
A shadow of stress now haunts my mother’s every step. Last week it was time for her six-month neurological check-up and I didn’t want to take her. I worry every time she tries to walk, especially if she has to enter a car. She seems to have forgotten how to bend her knees. At times she looks like she can’t remember what legs are for. I told my sister I thought we should cancel the appointment. It’s not like the doctor has a new elixir to restore her skills. I felt that transporting her was more likely to lead to a fall than to any health improvement.
My sister disagreed. She was determined that Mom should see the doctor. Just in time, we got a wheelchair which solved some of Mom’s mobility problems. Then, to further persuade me, my sister discovered a service called Freedom Taxi, an ADA compliant transportation company. Freedom operates a fleet of taxi vans equipped with drop-down ramps for wheelchairs. The patient never has to get out of the chair, which is pushed up into the back of the cab and secured with a locking belt. A companion can ride up front and offer soothing words to calm and reassure the person in the back.
The service was not without glitches. I called days in advance to order the taxi pick up and I’m very glad I did. Later when I did an Internet search for the company, I stumbled on the Freedom Taxi Yelp reviews — which were awful. But the unhappy Yelp writers were all passengers who had ordered regular taxis on the day they needed service. None of them got timely pick ups. Our wheelchair taxi showed up for Mom exactly on time — both when taking her to the doctor’s office and when picking her up after the appointment.
Services like these are now proliferating as the number of older people with dementia and disabling illness soars. The society seems most likely to address mobility problems when money can be made from solving them. Hopefully, the cost of services like these will decrease as the number of providers rises. I hope mobile support will also expand beyond big city hubs to smaller communities with high need.
The whole experience made me appreciate the incredible mobility I’ve always enjoyed. It’s a gift you take for granted until life forces you to grow a new pair of eyes and see what it’s like to have your movement curtailed. I thank heaven for my legs, my car, and the good health that still allows me to propel myself around this green planet. I’m also very grateful that we’ve found a new and safe way to move mom around when it’s absolutely necessary.