As a volunteer, I spend most of my service time offering respite to caregivers who need to leave their charges to go out into the normal world for regular chores - buying food or medications or just taking a break from their 24-hour-a-day duties.
But there's another side that seems less demanding, easier than sitting with an Alzheimer's client for several hours. And that's simple transportation for elderly who have no transportation on hand, no car, no friend to drive, no nearby JAC bus stop.
I am less often asked to be a driver is such cases, but I have learned the streets of Carson City as I searched for a client.
Most of the time such drives as pleasant and easy, although when there are physical disabilities it can get complex, getting in and out of the car, for instance. (At times I use my own car and other times I use an RSVP van.)
But driving someone can become much more personal; in respite the client is usually progressing along with dementia. But not so in transportation. These drives are set up at least three days ahead to give drivers time to plan.
I recently had a client who lived in southeastern Carson City, a lady of senior level who walked with a cane but lived in a neat, well-maintained cottage. She was pleasantly upbeat and carried a thick sheaf of papers with her. She outlined our route: first to the Senior Citizen Center to photocopy some documents, then to a welfare office near the KFC outlet, where she would drop off her documents certifying that she was eligible for assistance. After that to Smith's grocery so she could shop for food and use the ATM.
We did all of that and she was cheerful even though she lost her purse for a few minutes (someone had turned it in to the store). She apologized for taking so long in the store, perhaps 40 minutes.
I asked her about the documents she had to get to the welfare office. Couldn't she just mail them? No, that didn't work, she had to make sure they got to the right person, otherwise she could lose a month's benefits, which she relied on to live.
I helped that lady unload the bags of groceries on her porch; no, she didn't need me to help her in with them. She thanked me when we were finished and gave me an RSVP envelope with money inside. Probably $3 or $4.
To me she was the face of entitlements. I have no idea what reduced her to asking RSVP for help, but I couldn't help but admire her determination to keep on keeping on.
So I'm set for another drive this week. And I'm looking forward to it.
A READER ASKS
I often get questions about Alzheimer's disease, most of which are beyond my competence to answer. But one came the other day that intrigued me: a doctor on the Internet claimed that he could reverse and cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and ALS. Was it credible, considering most medical science doesn't make such claims. So I looked into the doctor's site, the Blaylock Medical Report, which turned out to be a very long spiel about Dr. Blaylock's medical report, which could be obtained for "just cents a day."
Much of what was suggested made reasonable sense, but the frequent offers of subscriptions to the Blaylock report seemed pretty much of a simple sales pitch. Lots of discussion of harmful foods and seasonings (my old friend from Japan, "aji no moto" or MSG was not at all good for you) and mentions of brain cell deaths. Nothing about the common medical description of Alzheimer's brain-clogging growths.
Again, I'm not a medical expert and many of the things that Blaylock discusses are beyond me. But when there is a pitch for a product that goes against everything I've read and studied, I have questions. I suggest if you are interested in what Dr. Blaylock has to say, read his Internet message.
A READER REPORTS
Last week's column was largely devoted to the subject of elder abuse. I noted that almost everyone who encounter's evidence of abuse of anyone 60 and older is required by law to report it to law enforcement authorities. The day after that column ran I was thanked by a couple of seniors at the Senior Center lunch. One fellow said, "Thanks for the warning about elder abuse. Next time she yells at me, I'm calling the sheriff." He laughed, it was a joke. But it was clear he and the others were aware of the problem.
Wish I could have finished the piece on elder abuse. I'll do so in another article.
• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.