Don’t let it happen.
Maybe the title of this blog should be DISABILITIES can make your senior invisible, but our experience is specific to mom in her wheelchair. Here is what I have learned over the last two years. (Jump to Lessons Learned)
I first wrote about wheelchairs in early 2016. It is important to know how Medicare will help you purchase a wheelchair, you can read the article here: Medicaid will help pay for a wheelchair. But what I have learned since then is even more important.
This summer and fall we’ve have been blessed to have several lovely family events to attend. Going out requires mom using a wheelchair so I’ve been struck more than once, by how invisible she becomes when we are out. Oddly enough, what brought it to my attention were weddings. I had settled mom at her table and was greeting family and friends during the cocktail hour. What I realized is that wait staff would bring appetizers to the table and not once offer my mother one. It was like she was invisible even though they would offer the tray to others sitting there. As soon as I realized it, stood there and each time, said “Would you please make sure my mother who is in the wheelchair is served?” Folks were happy to do so, but why did I have to point her out? It happened again with another relative’s wedding and again I directed wait staff to the table and asked that they make sure the person in the wheelchair was served.
I’m not sure how to change this dynamic. Should I have mentioned this to the head of staff, tipped someone? I don’t think it is deliberate, but it’s a problem. And educating even one person at a time by directing them to your loved one is a start.
What has been your experience? How have you handled it? Please use the comment section to share your story.
- Call ahead to make sure a restaurant or store is really “Handicap” accessible. One restaurant we love has a ramp to get in the door, but four steps to get into the restaurant. They assured us that employees would lift the wheelchair to bring it to the next level. This was a scary idea for mom, but not trusting meant that she could not attend a family celebration for a beloved niece. We went and sure enough, between family and employees, we got her up into the party room.
- Check to understand the parking situation as well. One family party was being held at a venue that was on a busy main street. We could have parked in the handicap spot behind the building, but that would have meant a good ¼ mile walk around the building to the front door. Not a great idea if it was going to rain that day. When mom called, the owners offered to put cones in a parking space right by the front door. They did, we easily parked and had easy access into the building..
- When you go into a restaurant and they take a chair away from the table, make sure the space they are making will fit the wheelchair. I always look underneath to ensure that there is not a table leg in the way. We rarely have the feet on the wheelchair for that reason. Too often the feet don’t allow mom to comfortably get right up to the table.
- Don’t be surprised if a handicap accessible building does not have a button to push to automatically open the door. Mom’s dentist is in a building that does not have stairs and does have an elevator, but getting in means going in backwards. I open the door and hold it with my butt until mom can put her hand out and continue to hold it open. I’m always grateful if there is anyone around to hold the door for us.
- When out at a restaurant or store, I make sure that the wait person or clerk has mom’s attention and then ask her the question, so she can answer for herself. Otherwise they often look to me and ignore mom.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.