“Older adults are actually not much more likely to be in car accidents, but they are more likely to suffer injury or die in one because their bodies are more susceptible to injury, and resulting medical complications are more likely.”
This is most definitely not a new issue, but how do we know when it is time to stop driving? There is no law that dictates when we can and cannot drive. Due to the fact that the aging process is different for everyone, it is impossible for a law to mandate when old age equals no driving. The other, perhaps more daunting fact, is that driving evokes a sense of independence. Many seniors have the fear that if their ability to drive is taken away, it directly relates to their ability be social and present in their own lives. The conversation needs to happen but the approach needs to be focused around safety and inclusion, never isolation. This conversation should happen early, before it is a necessity and you need to emphasize that you will always be there.
There are also several steps you and your loved one can take as precautionary measures.
- Yearly eye exams
- Medication review on a regular basis – some medications restrict driving
- Refresher driver safety courses
- Public and private transportation options
- Plan driving routes before they head out
In addition to your ongoing conversations it is especially important to monitor your loved ones situation closely in order to recognize when their driving skills may be deteriorating. Here are some good signs to look out for:
- Slower reaction times
- Greater cautiousness
- Lost in thought or distracted driving
- Changes to physical capabilities – specifically eyesight, hearing and range of motion.
Overall there are some great guidelines to follow to mitigate the feeling of fear and isolation when the time finally comes where it is no longer safe for your loved one to be driving.
- Reiterate that you are an ally, always there for them
- Create and refer to an independent Plan you create together – this plan outlines your mutual agreement for how they can remain independent in various way other than driving.
- Design alternative “remain Independent” activities for them. Weekly transportation plans can help.
- Include regular plans for getting to places that offer fun activities. Senior center, visit with friends, ect.
No matter what the age, no one likes to feel controlled or inhibited in any way. Approach the conversation early, with love and patience. Build on your relationship and their sense of security. Seniors and driving safety is of utmost importance and in the end it is a win/win situation.
– Georgetown Home Care
*All information taken from an article published by Merrill Lynch “Older Adults and Driver Safety”.