Driving Miss Daisy... to the Doctor
I have to say, providing Assisted Transport where I drive my elderly client to their doctor or specialist appointment is one of the snazzy little duties that as a Home & Community careworker, I really quite enjoy.
I like driving. I like chatting. And I like helping people.
What more could you ask for?
Thankfully, most Seniors seem to view this opportunity for an outing rather favourably as well. Possibly because they get the guarantee of a
So, as simple and as common sense as it sounds, I thought I’d compile a few helpful pointers to empower my fellow carers to transport their elderly clients in the most professional, yet thoughtful manner that they can muster. One that's superbly stress-free and which will ultimately mean a minimum of anxiety to each of you.
Not to mention eliminating all chance of something going wrong and it all ending in tears.
Or worse. Eeek!
Firstly, plan the trip BEFORE you get to your elderly client's home:
- Decide the route you will take. Map it out, and decide the best way to go so you can avoid heavy traffic and/or pesky roadwork delays that may invite an already nervous Pensioner to start fretting
- Investigate parking. Is there easy access? Is the parking free? Is there a Disabled carpark available?
- Know in advance what your client’s needs are. Are there inhibiting medical conditions? Do they need a wheeled walker? Does she prefer to sit in the back seat?
- Clear out your car. Make a comfy space for your elderly traveller to sit and feel special in. (Yes, that does mean getting rid of your son’s football, skateboard and last week's takeaway rubbish).
- Be. On. Time. This is IMPERATIVE. If you haven't worked it out by now, older adults get most anxious when it comes to appointment times. In fact save yourself the pain and be ridiculously early rather than cutting it fine. Otherwise your entire trip will be tense and unpleasant - and heaven help you if you make your client arrive late!
And, horror of all horrors - she liked to try and leap out of the car at traffic lights!
As we drove along nearing her favourite bakery she’d bellow “they make the best fruit loaf here, Wendy!” and yank off her seatbelt while fumbling for the door handle. This was before I’d stopped the car or even had a chance to pull over!
I soon learnt to distract Daisy whenever we reached certain shops or at the lights - as well as making dam sure I had the 'kiddie lock' on too.
All tricks of the trade to ensure everyone is kept safe and snug.
And she could call me Wendy, Wilomena or WOMBAT for all I cared - just as long as she stayed out of mischief.
Tips on getting elderly people INTO the car with a minimum of fuss:(Clue: it’s ALL about Safety)
2. Check they have all their bits n bobs ie: Bag? Specs? Brolly? Coat? Key? The key is a big one, obviously.
3. Confirm appointment time is correct and that you’re on target. Tick.
4. Confirm location of the appointment. Make sure you’re both on the same page. Nothing worse than roaring off to the wrong doctor because your client hadn’t informed you they’d changed their GP or that he had moved consulting rooms. More common than you'd think, this one.
5. Confirm if you are waiting for your client in the reception waiting area or if they’d like you to accompany them into the appointment
Once your Beloved is all strapped in - and usually champing at the bit for a good natter by this stage... you can put their walker or any other mobility paraphernalia into the boot knowing your charge is secured.
Tips for keeping your elderly client HAPPY in your car:
- Just chat, be yourself, but be guided by them. You want to put your client at ease and hope that they feel relaxed being in the car with you. However, if they aren’t interested in talking then back off and don’t yabber on.
- Throw in the odd compliment. Or at least one. FIND SOMETHING…nice coat, hat, pretty rose bush, they smell nice, lovely shoes etc. Everyone loves a bit of flattery (even the biggest of Grumps)
- Let them talk about themselves - unless they show genuine interest in you. Seniors can get sick to the back teeth of their own company so your presence can be like a breath of fresh air to them. Brace yourself!!!
- Exaggerate your experience if need be, tell them you’ve done this hundreds of times and how much you enjoy it - but don’t disclose too much personal info about yourself.
- Remember your professional boundaries. Doesn't matter how 'friendly' you become with your client, don't be tempted to give them your private phone or home address details. It will bite you in the bum later - rest assured.
- If you aren’t familiar with the area – ASK YOUR CLIENT! They usually know it inside out, they’ve been coming to this doctor for 157 years and they will no doubt let you know this. If they give you directions then TAKE THEM. Don’t try and prove them wrong - it’s not about you being clever.
- Don’t probe into their reason for going to the doctor. More than likely they will tell you anyway and most of the time it’s just routine check-up type stuff. You’d like to think that if it was anything super serious or life-threatening, that the family would be driving them – not little ole you.
Tips on getting your elderly client OUT of the car with a minimum of fuss:(Again, it’s all about Safety)
- Park as close as possible to the entrance of the clinic. Do they have a special Disabled Permit for window display? (I love these babies - it means front row parking BRILLIANT)
- Tell them the plan and explain what you intend to do to get them out. Do they need help? If so, get out and be poised ready for them before they struggle, get caught up in door handles or something goes horribly wrong. If they have one, get the wheelie walker out waiting for them as you open their door
- Assist to get your client onto the kerb SAFELY. Don’t go grabbing their arm, remember they are still independent and should be quite capable. Umm should be....
- Be guided by them. Open the door to the clinic, but let them do all the talking to the staff. Most receptionists are cluey enough to know why you have come along too, so just hover and be ready to leap in if your client needs you
Remember – COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY!
If you've had a good chat in the car then you will have most of these bases covered already.
Although having said that, there is a time and place for conversation with your clients.
You need to be aware of what their medical condition is and whether they have issues with speech.
Or possibly even with breathing.
During our first initial outing however, I wisely opted NOT to talk to Jim more than was necessary, because it was obvious to me that he struggled to push out every single word. Suffering exhaustion with the mere physical process of hauling himself to the doctors, the last thing he needed was to expend valuable energy on idle chit chat along the way.
Surprisingly, after our first near-silent journey together, and while I was helping him out of the car, he actually mustered up the strength to tell me how much he appreciated not having to waste his breath on the usual banter that most carers insisted on "putting him through".
And... <wheeze>... could he... <wheeze>... have me drive him again <gasp>... next time?
Being aware, staying alert and taking responsibility. I hate to sound like a patronising so-in-so...but it’s pretty similar to taking a toddler out in public: you’ve got to watch their every move!
Just in case:
I’m kidding, of course.
Although I did once have an elderly gent somehow lose his half-sucked barley sugar in the waiting room of the Optometrists one day.
Believe it or not, had to chuckle, we found it at his appointment the following week... embedded in the crease of the very same chair he’d sat on the week before!