Having the conversation with your aging loved one when it's time to stop driving is never easy, but crucial to keeping them safe. How do you know when to initiate a conversation about driving with your loved one, while still respecting their independence?
Since each individual and situation is different, look for the following signs to help guide you in knowing when to approach this sensitive issue.
1. Health Conditions that Make Driving Unsafe
Vision loss, hearing loss, and even muscle weakness can all be unsafe for a driver. Dementia is another factor that can put your loved one at great risk when driving. If your elderly parent has a chronic health condition or is on medication regularly, have a talk with their doctor about your concerns. If possible, call before your appointment to let your loved one’s doctor know your concerns. This way, he or she can be prepared for the conversation and perhaps help you broach the subject.
2. Spotty Recent Driving Record
Have you noticed an increased number of minor crashes, unexplained damage to the car or even an increase in tickets for unsafe driving practices? These can be signs it's time to hang up the keys. AAA recommends having a conversation about driving if your elderly parent has had two or more traffic citations or two or more collisions/near-misses in the past two years. This may seem like a small number, but taking action quickly can help prevent a tragedy.
3. Signs While Driving
Take a drive with your loved one and look for common warning signs. For example, lifting the leg to move from the accelerator to the brake, rather than leaving the heel firmly on the floor, can indicate leg strength problems. An older driver who ignores traffic signs may not be seeing them well. Drivers who fail to signal properly may not be paying attention or may have lost mental acuity, which is creating a problem for driving.
4. Common Coping Mechanisms
Aging drivers often know they have a problem, but are not ready to admit it. They may use a coping mechanism, such as driving too slow or recruiting a “copilot” who helps them respond to the environment. These coping mechanisms are not safe driving practices and are often signs that it is time to stop driving.
5. Failing a Driving Assessment
If you are noticing multiple signs of a problem, ask your elderly parent to take a comprehensive driving assessment. This will help both of you identify any problems and determine whether or not driving is a safe activity. It can also help you begin this important conversation.
Medications and medical conditions can make driving unsafe for older adults.
Recent accidents or near misses are warning signs that it is time to stop driving.
Taking a drive with your aging parent can help you spot problems.
Coping mechanisms can be warning signs of a driving problem.
If all signs point to a problem, consider a comprehensive driving assessment.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
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