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My Mother's Keeper: The Eye Doctor Appointment

By Beverly Bernstein Joie, MS, CMC

(Page 2 of 3)

Driving is a huge issue. As kids, getting that driverís license means independence and freedom and a leap into another stage of life. The threat of losing this ability hits people hard, with good reason. It also propels them into another stage of life, but one that isnít nearly as exciting and expansive. Itís often experienced as a painful loss of personal identity, and most importantly, a change in the way they will be relating to their families and others. The experience is often one of dependency and a constriction of life. Yet, faulty drivers stand not only to injure themselves, but they also may hurt innocent victims. Here was a woman putting others at risk because of her denial of the need for surgery. And it was MY MOTHER.

As I look back upon the signs, I must admit that they were there for me to see. For example, when she stepped outside, she was afraid that she couldnít see the ground and she could not see where to walk. She held on to people and at least knew that she could not drive at night. But I, like so many others of my generation, have great difficulty seeing what is before us. Nor do we want to. We, like our parents, want things to stay the same. We want our parents to continue on as we have known them. For me, I canít even fathom a world in which my mom isnít a phone call away. I still need her to be my mom. Because whatís underneath the feelings I have described is a whole lot of love and fear of loss.

In case you are wondering what happened, I spoke from my empowered geriatric care management position of knowing, which is the place to which I typically go when I am afraid. I told my mom in no uncertain terms that she had two choices: She could either fix her cataracts or stop driving. I also admonished the doctor for not alerting the Department of Motor Vehicles about enabling a patient to drive when the licensed professional is aware of the dangers. By law, doctors could lose their license for not reporting their findings in this type of situation. For some reason, my mom did not argue with me. Knowing her, I am still not certain why she listened. She told me that she would never allow that doctor to operate on her because she didnít like him. I asked her whom she did like; she actually told me about a doctor whom ďeverybody in the building uses.Ē After checking him out, I concurred that it was a great idea. Five weeks later, she underwent surgery. Shortly thereafter, my mom was again behind the wheel, only this time she could actually see.

I guess you could say that the visit to the ophthalmologist was an eye-opening experience. A lot has happened since that doctorís visit, but that was clearly the incident that let me know that I had officially become my motherís keeperĖher caregiver. Weíve been on a hair-raising ride together since then, but thereís still one thing that I know: I love my mom and I will do whatever it takes to get her the best possible care, to protect her autonomy, and to spend this time with her because this is the time that matters most Ė to both of us. I will have to deal with the challenging feelings that these experiences precipitate just like everybody else. Before I was ever a geriatric care manager, I was my motherís daughter.

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