2008-03-14 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

Commentary By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT

My closest friend in physical therapy school was a guy named Adam who was from Glendale. He lived there with his father, mother and brother.

After graduation he also became a New York City firefighter. Although I have lost touch with him for most of the year I call each year on his birthday and he calls me on mine. I understand that he had made the rank of lieutenant and had taken the captain's test.

Soon after graduation, his father passed away. His mother continued to live in Glendale and attend daily Mass at her parish church, which was a few blocks away.

We spoke more frequently in those days and he was telling me that his mother was going to get herself one of those electric scooters.

I was surprised and told him so.

"I didn't know your mother was ill" I remember saying. "She's not, she saw one of those commercials for the scooters, and that Medicare would pay for it, and she decided to get one" he replied.

He went on to tell me that he tried to dissuade her; but to no avail, she would not be denied. She explained that her knees ached from time to time and it would help her attend Mass each morning. In addition, she was only going to use it to get to church and do some shopping. Yes, she had a car but the scooter seemed better.

After a year, his mother no longer drove her car and she sold it. Within two years she had to have her sons close the second floor to her home because she no longer could go up and down the stairs. Her joints had become too stiff and too weak. By the third year of scooter life, she sold her house in Glendale and moved to a single level ranch home in Pennsylvania, where there were no stairs.

The commercials for these scooters show elderly people scurrying around having fun in a retirement community. Big smiles abound! "Greater Independence!" The announcer cries out. "Medicare will pay!!" "No cost to you!"

The reality is there is always a cost. Greater independence my foot! Adam's mother had been an independent woman with some knee aches and pains; three years later she was DEPENDANT on that scooter.

She could not get out of that scooter if she tried. She could no longer use stairs. She couldn't walk to church, in a park or anywhere else for that matter.

The change in her legs was gradual and she did not notice how weak she had become.

She was now a prisoner of that scooter. I often wonder if she could go back in time and choose not to get that scooter, would she make the same choices again.

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