The milestones of our youth reflect our beginnings. Our first steps. Our first kiss. Our first road trip sitting in the driver’s seat. As we enter our twilight years, many of our milestones can be perceived as conclusions. Yet, if we choose to embrace them, they are simply the beginnings of the next stages in our lives.
Like many elderly folks, the decision to stop driving was a difficult one for my mother to make. It was the loss of what she believed to be the key to her independence. She had spent her entire adult life being able to hop into her car and go wherever she wanted. Whether it was schlepping her growing children around to baseball practices and horseback riding lessons. Or scooting into town to run errands. Or hitting the road for an extended visit with an old friend a few hundred miles away.
My first challenge was helping my mother to understand it was time for her to get off the road while still maintaining her sense of independence. And while her emotional health was a concern, the top priority was her physical safety. And as importantly, the safety of other travelers.
My journey began with our family doctor and without his help I would have had a much rougher time of it. We discussed my mother’s overall health and abilities. We determined the time had come for my mother to stop driving because of her mental and physical limitations. He kindly offered to be the bad guy. He said it wouldn’t be his first appearance in that role. He said he found it was often easier for an elderly patient to get annoyed with him rather than a family member. He said based on his experience, I should prepare myself for my mother to get mad. Real mad.
My mother finally did turn in her car keys. Two years after we first approached her on the subject. Yup…it took two years. Two long, knicker-twisting, hand-wringing, hair-pulling years. Because every time we brought up the subject, my mother would dance around what she knew in her heart would be the final outcome. She made every excuse in the book. She took procrastination to a higher level. She did not go peacefully. I understood her reluctance. Didn’t make it any easier, but I got it.
My second challenge was finding her a way to get out and about with some sense of independence, as I knew she did not want to be dependent on me. I looked into a myriad of options. And narrowed it down to two organizations in my area. One group called Seniors Helping Seniors and another group called Visiting Angels. After meeting with them both at my mother’s apartment, we chose Seniors Helping Seniors as the best solution for us. They gave us the flexibility of time we needed, plus they were on-budget for the services we needed.
And in the end, it was the beginning of the next stage in my mother’s life. It was the perfect solution. She had a newfound companion. A gal named Lorraine. They became buddies. My mother looked forward to the days when Lorraine came to take her out to the grocery store or the post office or to the hair salon. She enjoyed being chauffeured around and looking at the scenery, rather than having to concentrate on the road. She would routinely bake an extra batch of zucchini bread or carrot cake for Lorraine to take home for her and her elderly mother to enjoy. And for no special reason, just because. Around the holidays, Lorraine would leave my mother’s apartment with multiple tins of cookies filled to their brims.
Lorraine was a gem. She was patient and kind and understanding. And very helpful to me in monitoring my mother’s mental and physical abilities. Lorraine told me on more than one occasion that she loved spending time with my mother, as she did with all the folks she served.
And you know, even though my mother has moved into assisted living…I still send Lorraine a holiday card every year. Just because.