Buxton, ND woman helps seniors maintain independence through driving lessons and other means – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Several years ago, Joy Tandberg was helping her mother at a time when she was coming to a crossroads.

Then living in Colorado, she cared for her elderly mother while helping her determine if he was still fit to drive cars.

“I didn’t know what or if anything was available to help us make this decision,” Tandberg said. “Big family, seven children, seven different opinions. It was not a good situation at the time, and unfortunately for mum, it took her a little accident.

Luckily no one was hurt, but the incident was enough to convince her to give up control of the steering wheel. After moving to North Dakota three and a half years ago and working for Altru, Tandberg had an idea.

Tandberg, who has nearly 38 years of experience as an occupational therapist, owns Dak-Minn Driving and Home Assessments, which exists to provide comprehensive driving tests for seniors and those with changed medical conditions. , which could affect their ability to drive. .

There are currently three certified drive-thru rehab specialists in North Dakota – one in Fargo and two in Bismarck. She is working to become the fourth. She said she believed furthering her education would help her in her new career.

“I worked with a mentor on the East Coast who (did) drive-thru rehabilitation for over 20 years and really started to like this service area,” Tandberg said. “So through my mentor there, along with Kurt (Sandburg) and his team (at Grand Forks SCORE), I was encouraged to start doing it on a private basis.”

Tandberg decided to start meeting patients in their homes and going to where they usually drove their vehicles to try to alleviate the anxiety of driving in new places. She has found that most of her patients do better when driving in their own environment.

Joy Tandberg works with a patient at Dak-Minn Driving and Home Assessments.

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“When I was at Altru, every time I had a driving assessment, the patient or a family member would call and say, ‘They won’t have to drive in Grand Forks, will they? “, Tandberg said. “Because they would never drive in Grand Forks.”

Every patient needs something different. If they need suitable equipment, they go through training sessions with the equipment as an aid before testing again with the state. If they have cognitive problems, they receive training to learn special techniques to try to overcome these problems while driving. Whether they have vision problems, are stroke survivors or whatever their condition, Tandberg gives them access to help and practice to maintain their sense of independence.

This feeling of independence is also extremely important. Not just for the physical well-being of patients, but for their state of mind.

“Driving for almost everyone means independence or freedom,” Tandberg said. “You take away this thing that we’ve done our whole lives and take away this ability to jump in the car whenever you want, it’s a huge, huge part of our self-esteem and our well-being that is taken away.”

So what about those who Tandberg thinks shouldn’t drive anymore? She said it’s a tough decision to make, and it’s just as tough to work through it with patients. She loves her job and working with patients, but some days are more difficult than others.

“What’s really difficult is when I have to say to someone, ‘It’s not safe for you anymore. You’re not even safe driving to have coffee with the boys in the morning,'” Tandberg said “I’ll tell you, I’ve cried with many, many patients when I had to give them this kind of information, or when it was the person they lived in their home for 50 years. , but they’re not going to be safe to stay there any longer. These are the times when it’s really difficult.

Tandberg said maintaining participation in physical activities and interacting with others despite the inability to drive is critical to the well-being of his patients.

“We all know that if we don’t go out and interact with other people, so many other things can happen,” Tandberg said. “We are starting to get depressed. We don’t go out to exercise. Our physical state and our mental state regress so much.

Tandberg said she loves the sense of accomplishment she gets from helping her patients transition to a new part of their lives.

“It’s awesome,” Tandberg said. “Especially when I can tell the person that, ‘With these little restrictions or modifications, you can keep driving for a while’ or, ‘With installing that ramp, or getting that bath chair, you’ll be able to stay home longer. Those things always make you feel good, because that’s the person’s goal. They want to keep that independence.”

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