Elderly adults can be safe drivers

Five Tips To Help You Decide If Your Senior Loved One Should Continue Driving

Do you have concerns as to whether your senior loved one should continue to drive? We’ve collected tips here to help you determine if the time has come to take away the car keys. Pegasus senior care services in Verdugo City and elsewhere include providing transportation to individuals whose health keeps them from driving.

Driving skills are not necessarily dependent on age. There is not an age at which everyone should give up the car keys. Health issues are the primary reason to limit time behind the wheel.

It’s true that one’s health tends to worsen as the years accumulate. Mental and physical abilities decline in most individuals. Medications can affect judgment and reaction times.

Certain medications can lead to drowsiness behind the wheel. Aging adults may also experience more side effects that can further impair their alertness. Taking a combination of two or more meds before driving can be especially deadly.

The Problem Is Health, Not Age

A person with vision or hearing loss is going to be less aware of what other drivers are doing. They may also be less aware of road conditions. Arthritic stiffness makes it hard for individuals to look around.  

Muscle weakness or loss of feeling in their hands or feet can limit movement. These conditions can lead to difficulty turning the steering wheel or braking adequately. Other medical conditions that can impair driving ability include:

  • Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Insomnia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep apnea

Alcohol or substance abuse issues reduce the ability to drive safely.

An occupational therapist can assist in assessing an individual’s physical ability to drive safely. Therapists or other professionals can develop a custom plan that can improve behind the wheel ability. Another option is making use of new technological advances designed to improve safety for elderly drivers.  

Your Loved One May Already Be Compensating For Their Loss Of Driving Skill

As individuals realize that they aren’t driving as well as they used to, many restrict their activity behind the wheel. They modify their driving habits in one or more of the following ways:

  • Avoiding left turns or other maneuvers they find difficult
  • Turning off the radio, cell phones, and other distractions
  • Avoiding congested areas of traffic
  • Choosing familiar routes or planning routes in advance
  • Avoiding driving at night or during storms

They may also abstain from conversations with passengers as a way to maintain their concentration.

Five Tips For Evaluating If Your Senior Loved One Is A Safe Driver

Your evaluation of your loved one’s driving habits is a better guide than their age for determining their safety. Consider the following:

  1. Riding along – experts recommend taking a ride with your senior loved one. Try to make it a pleasure trip and avoid making them feel like they’re being “tested.” Notice what, if anything, makes them nervous, anxious, or confused while driving. Do they seem disoriented? Do they get lost?
  2. Other observations – notice new dents and scrapes on their vehicle. Be especially concerned if their answers are evasive or if they can’t remember how the dings occurred. Have they accumulated traffic tickets or been given warnings? Have their friends or neighbors spoken to you about your loved one’s driving? Has there been an unexplained increase in their vehicle insurance?
  3. Health Awareness – try to learn what, if any, medical conditions they have. If you can, talk to their doctor. Even if you can, research the condition yourself, so you know what to expect as time passes. Make sure they wear their eyeglasses or hearing aids if needed and get regular checkups.
  4. Medications – research the side effects and interactions of their medications yourself. Consult with their doctor or pharmacist to learn if dosages can be reduced. Be especially aware of any over-the-counter meds they are taking as those can be just as dangerous as prescription meds.
  5. Listen – pay attention to what they are saying about other drivers. Are others “road hogs” or driving too fast? Are the others making lane changes or turns without signaling or unsafe drivers in other ways? Your loved one’s perceptions may not be accurate and can lead to accidents. They may also engage in, or become the victims of, road rage or other dangerous situations.

Your observations will help you determine when, or if, it’s time for your loved one to stop driving.

Avoid Confrontation

Sooner or later, you will probably need to have “the talk” about giving up driving. Many individuals equate driving with independence. It’s essential that you recognize and respect their feelings.

Avoid raising their hackles by starting with statements such as “you’re getting too old to drive.” Begin with expressing concern for their safety. Avoid judging their driving ability.

Approach the subject gradually if necessary. Offer some transportation alternatives. Stick to the facts, but be supportive.

Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our senior care professionals the provide services and treatments that our clients need to maximize their safety and independence. Whatever the level of assistance required, we are here for your loved one in Verdugo City and our other locations.