Friday Mar 21 2008
Mobility easy to come by with a little help
By: Helen Bale, Through Irish Eyes
Yes, you can do it. You can really get from here to there easily. I'm talking, of course, of the elderly and the handicapped who need specialized assistance in getting around, especially if they depend on power equipment. There are ways ” you just need to know how to find them. I hope I can help. First of all, there are two basic reasons for needing such transportation assistance: medical and non-medical. Medical involves visits to your doctor, dentist, lab work, X-rays, hospital, etc., and can be handled by Health Express. They are also handled by non-medical vehicles as needed. Non-medical calls involve just about everything else, from a trip to the grocery store to a visit to the library. Both are important, and both possible. First call I'd recommend would be to Seniors First (530) 889-9500. They can help with information and assistance on just about any topic that deals with seniors. A call to Seniors First will connect you with the Door-to-Door program, operated by volunteers, or with Health Express. While the private vehicles cannot accommodate wheelchairs or large tank oxygen, the drivers will wait for the return trip, whether from the bank, pharmacy, hairdresser, etc. With Health Express, a return trip can be arranged, based on your estimate of when it will be needed. Make your request at least 48 hours in advance. No set fees are charged. Compensation is strictly by donation. In the Auburn area, Placer County Transit provides fixed-route buses, all equipped with automatic lifts to accommodate wheelchairs and power chairs. Curb-to-curb service is provided through Dial-a-Ride. If you live along the fixed route or can get to it easily, you can call (530) 889-7570 to make arrangements. Also call this number for the curb-to-curb service. The bus will come to your home to pick you up and return you. Cost is $1 each way or you may purchase a book of 20 tickets for $17 from the driver if you expect to be a frequent customer. You may also engage the services of a private company, such as Macy Transportation, which also provides vans for Health Express. Costs will vary according to the distance involved. In any event, be aware that schedules need to be worked out in advance, so call as soon as you realize you'll be needing a vehicle. Be on time, early if possible. There's a little more to loading power equipment than simply hopping on the bus. Here's my recent adventure: I was due for pickup at 9:20 a.m., for a 10 a.m. meeting of the Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee at the county elections department. It was a pleasant sunny day, so I rolled my power chair out into the driveway at 9 a.m., just as the big white van rolled into view. It took only a few minutes for the lift to be lowered. I drove on slowly and was carefully beamed up. Once in position, the chair was fastened securely and we were off. I was glad I'd been early. Out in DeWitt Center, it took only a few minutes to unfasten the chair, lower the lift and I drove off. Hah! I thought with glee. I did it. This was fun. I must admit that a good part of the fun portion was supplied by the driver, who didn't seem to mind putting up with an over-the-hill female. Even when we got home he showed amazing patience when I managed to drive one of my non-tip wheels over the edge. The next day it was Dial-a-Ride. Again I was early and so was my ride. I was practiced this time and we skimmed through the drill until I managed to foul things up, wedging the non-tip wheel against the side of the lift. Oh well, what do you expect of a woman driver? But it was so much easier to guide the chair along the handicapped walkway and into the library where the Older Adult Advisory Comission was meeting. I felt like the Little Train That Could as I murmured to myself, You bet I can, you bet I can. And so can you! With today's technologies, there's no reason to sit at home behind closed doors. Enjoy the sunshine once again. Get out and savor the world. Helen Bale's column runs every other Sunday in Lifestyle.