One common concern that families have with an aging loved one is driving. As we age, our abilities to perform regular, daily activities like driving can become compromised. Older adults also experience a decrease in hearing, strength, and flexibility. Physical pain or discomfort can interfere with maneuvering the steering wheel, pressing pedals, and other driving tasks. Certain illnesses and medication side effects may also impede physical and/or mental functions needed for driving – like vision and concentration.
Many seniors enjoy driving to maintain their independence and active lifestyle. Driving is associated with a sense of freedom, so losing driving ability or privileges can be upsetting for your elderly loved one. Start a conversation early about driving and alternative ways to help your loved one get around. Some seniors accept when then time comes for them to hand over the car key, but many others resist and insist on driving independently. The following are some tips to help:
- An Independent Driving Evaluation
Depending on your state, a driving evaluation may be available through the DMV. If your loved one passes an evaluation and is deemed safe to drive, he or she should continue to be re-evaluated every six or 12 months. If your loved one does not pass, he or she must cease driving immediately.
- Monitor Driving
If your loved one is currently driving independently and demonstrates safe driving, continually monitor his or her driving behavior. It’s helpful to document poor driving incidents and look for: difficulty with turns or lane changes, drifting, driving too slowly, ignoring traffic signs, confusion on familiar routes, difficulty seeing other vehicles or pedestrians.
- Coordinate Alternative Transportation
Arrange transportation for your loved one so that he or she can continue with familiar activities and independence. Some options include family and friends, a taxi service, senior transportation services. (Many cities/towns offer transportation for seniors through the local senior center or public transit system.)
It’s not easy for most people to surrender their car key – and the freedom that comes with it. Treat your loved one respectfully and with dignity, kindly addressing his or her concerns while keeping safety the priority. Start the safe driving conversation early. If your loved one is unwilling to talk about it, consider asking his or her in-home caregiver or physician to bring it up during visits.
As a trusted home nursing provider, we recommend older adults to get an annual eye examination to diagnose and treat age-related developing eye diseases. If older drivers have signs of hearing loss, they must also visit their doctor for treatment. If you have questions about starting a safe driving conversation with your loved one or about transportation options, give us a call at Dimensions Home Health Care. We provide senior care, skilled nursing care, and home health care in Gurnee, Illinois and surrounding areas.