Saturday, July 30, 2011

Personal Note - Eldercare; Wheelchair Van

Ten years ago my wife's mom and step-dad, Jerry, moved to Cedar Park.  In their 80s they they were vigorous and fun-loving but needing a little help getting around.  They loved having us take them to far-away places like Cracker Barrel and Starbucks and Lakeline Mall.  And once all the way up to Clare, Michigan and back, visiting kids and grand kids along the way. 

Back home in Cedar Park they had their own little circle of nearby going-out places - a McDonalds, Walmart, Bank of America, Post Office, Walgreens. 

And a Scott & White clinic.

Age started taking a toll and they spent more and more time at Scott & White trying to keep the old bods running.  Then walking.  Then walking with a cane.  Four years ago Jerry fell and broke a hip.  And traded his cane for a walker.  A few weeks later, mom fell and broke a hip and got a walker of her own. 

Age can be hard on even the nicest people.  There were a few more falls, a few more broken bones (old bones are fragile).  There were memory losses and near-falls when the 90-year-olds would forget they needed a walker and shouldn't try to do housework.  Or go to the bathroom alone. 

They started needing lots meds to control body chemistry.  We learned about Medicare Part D and the donut hole. 

If you've been visiting this blog, you've noticed a lack of recent photos, recent player profiles.  I've only been to one Outlaws game in the past two seasons.  That's because caring for the old folks expanded into a full time job.  Wife Beverly and I have provided in-their-home caregivers for the folks, 24/7.  We've been doing grocery shopping, mowing lawns, making pharmacy runs, transporting to doctor appointments, hiring-firing caregivers (I have some stories to tell).  A highlight for us and them was taking the folks out to favorite restaurants or Christmas light tours.  Or Starbucks - Jerry loved his coffee.

Their ability to get around declined.  We started using part time wheelchairs to supplement the walkers.  Then one day I wheelchaired Jerry to the car and started the transfer.  The routine was to have him stand up, grasp the car door for balance while I pushed the wheelchair out of the way, and then aim his butt to the car seat.  This day things went wrong.  His legs just crumpled beneath him.  I was able to catch him, slip my knee under him and keep him from falling.  But his weakness and the limited space between car door and wheelchair made transfers to the car impossible.

Suddenly the outings were in jeopardy.  My van couldn't accommodate a wheelchair.  There are taxis that can but taxi fare is expensive and we aren't all that rich, especially when paying for caregivers.  There are medical vans but they're pricier than cabs.

Enter Austin Mobility Solutions, a business on I-35 just north of the Pflugerville exit. 

Push the button on the remote and here comes the ramp.

You'd be amazed.  They have vans specially equipped to accommodate wheelchairs.  Press the remote and the doors open, a ramp deploys.  You or your caregiver, can wheel the patient right inside.  These things are so cool the van even kneels, tilts downward, so the upward slope is less steep.

An easy trip up the ramp because the van is
"kneeling" toward the caregiver.
I had owned a van before.  A large luxury conversion van equipped with leather captains chairs, a TV, two stereos, a VCR.  We used it on that long road trip to Clare, Michigan.  I had bought it through Henna Chevrolet and a manufacturer's rep who worked with the conversion company. 

The manufacturer's rep was Charlie Lincoln.  Before I bought the van I checked out his reputation and learned that was highly regarded in the Austin area for outstanding service and customer care.  With our big van, Charlie lived up to his reputation.  What few problems I had he took care of himself. 

Fast forward to our need to transport wheelchairs.  I found Austin Mobility Solutions on a referral byThird Coast vans.  On my first visit to the showroom, I was startled to see Charlie there.  I asked what are you doing here?  He replied "I own the place."

The wheelchair is centered in the middle of
the van and secured with special securement
hardware anchored to the floor and hooked
to the wheelchair frame.  There's also a seat belt.

He demonstrated the showroom vans with the ramps and wheelchair securement hardware. We talked about options.  The ideal would be to own a van but money was a concern.  The business name is mobility solutions.  Charlie had a solution for me - rentals.  We could rent vans by the day, week, month.  We wound up doing daily rentals to transport the folks to the doctor's office and then out to lunch or coffee.

Thanks to Charlie, we were able to give mom and Jerry  the outings they so enjoyed. 

Close up of the cassette that holds the securement strap and the hook
connecting strap to wheelchair frame.  Really easy to operate.

Jerry died this week.  He had had a really hard year with multiple health problems.  He had had a really hard month with two EMS trips to the hospital and two trips (in Austin Mobility Vans) to the doctor.  He had a mysterious fall from his wheelchair - how did he manage to fall when he lacked strength to move without help?  Miraculously there were no fractures. 

A bad month.  In his last trip to the ER, the doctor recommended hospice care and we agreed.  Jerry died a day later.  He was 93.

Jerry was a Christian man and we believe he is now in a much better place.

But over the past year, his life has been better because of wonderful people like the caregivers and Charlie Lincoln. 

1 comment:

Thomas Wright said...

Deepest condolences to Jerry. Aging is rarely a pleasant event, but it's best to look on the bright side of things. The vans have, at the very least, provided a measure of comfort when it came to their transportation during that phase in his life.