I’m outraged! For the past week I’ve been reading about the 95-year old woman who was humiliated by TSA agents. This poor woman was detained and extensively searched last Saturday while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia. She was in a wheelchair and was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search. Are you kidding me? What has happened in our society? What is going on? Has anyone EVER read about 95-year olds hijacking planes, or for that matter, causing any problems in their communities, let alone at airports? Sadly, I think we have really lost our way. When we resort to patting down and basically strip-searching the elderly, we have really hit rock bottom. Thankfully her daughter has filed a formal complaint. Are you tired of hearing TSA agents say, “I was just doing my job?” They’ve searched babies as young as three months old and now it’s a 95-year old woman with leukemia. Something is terribly wrong.
The problem here is that as the person traveling with the senior, you have to stand by and watch! There is nothing you can do. This happened to me when I took Bob, who was also in a wheelchair, to see my daughter graduate from college. It wasn’t anywhere near this bad, though. The TSA agents made him remove his sweater, take off his belt, remove his shoes and socks and stand up, which was extremely difficult for him. It’s important to note here that Bob was wearing an American flag pin and a B-24 lapel pin, all while the TSA agent is doing the pat down. I was horrified. We had taken such care to make sure everything at the airport went smoothly. Afterall, we had planned for this trip for almost 5 years. I stood watching the pat-down in abject horror. And you will too, if this happens to your loved one. I never prepared him for this and I’m sure the 95-year old woman was not prepared either, especially when she had to remove her diaper.
The amazing thing is that most elderly people simply accept this behavior as part of being a member of society that has little regard for their generation. They just take it, which why as caregivers, we need to do EVERYTHING in our power to make sure that they receive the best treatment possible wherever they go. This is our duty. This is our calling and this is our mission. We get so caught up in the day-to-day drama of caring for an elderly loved one, that we often forget the single most important role we have – ADVOCACY! Our loved ones count on us to advocate on their behalf. With this TSA incident, there is nothing that the 95-year old’s daughter could have done, but her daughter is a living example of what it means to be an advocate. She has a filed a formal complaint and she is speaking out on behalf of her ill and aging mother. She IS protecting her mother’s dignity and in the course of this process, she has brought the conversation back to what really matters.
Travelling with a senior, especially one who is ill or infirmed can be extremely challenging, but it CAN be done with careful planning. There is something magical that happens when we take a senior for that one final trip. There is something completely unexplainable that occurs for the senior, but also for those in the presence of the final trip. These trips usually are an opportunity to say good-bye; to say I love you; to remember; to bond; to heal; to move forward; to prepare. I encourage you from every fiber in my being to make the effort and make this happen. Your life will be rich because of this act of generosity on your part. Once the plans are set and you feel comfortable that you’ve set the stage, you need only stand back and watch the magic happen. I did this for Bob and I share that final trip to see my daughter, his ‘butterfly’ graduate from college.
One final thought: If you are flying by plane, be sure to explain that a search might be part of the screening process. You can’t prevent, you can only try and prepare someone for it.
For details on making travelling with a senior successful, read Traveling with a Senior.
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