Transportation played a big part in the more than 60 year marriage of Al and Rita Wisniewski. Al worked for NASA. Rita was a school bus driver. She was a savvy driver and taught all of us kids how to drive.
But in the last few years the couple put the brakes on driving due to health problems. Al willingly gave up the keys, but Rita continued driving despite some red flags.
Lila, Rita's daughter says, "She began sitting lower in the seat and it almost looked like the wheel was higher than her so I thought gosh mom's really starting to get a little bit older and a little bit more frail so it was a conversation that began to come on slowly."
And the discussion left Rita with mixed emotions. Lila says she felt, "Devastated, embarrassed, um angry and relieved."
Then Rita was involved in an accident. "Well it scared me so badly I was fortunate enough not to get killed."
Lila says, "I think it frightened her so much and you hate to say that it was a blessing, it was a blessing that she wasn't hurt and no one else was hurt."
Kimberly Schaefer is a training manager with the Department of Motor Vehicles. "It's very difficult when you have to make that decision for them and they don't come to that determination on their own."
If you can't convince a loved one it's time to stop driving, Jacquee LaFrance, with the West Central Florida Agency on Aging, suggests you get back up- bring in a voice of authority like a doctor. "I think it's important to get their primary care physician involved so they can have that discussion sometimes getting that medical advice could also help.
Al and Rita's daughter has this advice. "Start gentle and be more active in driving your folks and more involved so they get more accustomed to be driven."
And while the discussion isn't easy, it's necessary. Lila says, "You have to have the conversation for their lives and the lives of others."
Al and Rita now have help getting around through Independent Living at Pinecrest Place in Largo. The facility actually has a van or bus that can take those living there where they need to go - whether its doctor's appointments or shopping.