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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on May 17th, 2016

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Car-Keeping Tips for Your Aging Loved One

Aging & Caregiving

Car-keeping tips for your aging loved oneWhile we frequently talk about the importance of assessing the changing physical and mental capabilities of older drivers, another driving-related safety issue often goes overlooked: vehicle condition. May shines the light on this topic with the observation of National Good Car-Keeping Month! Let’s take a closer look at this senior safety imperative, along with highlighting a few tips for proactive car maintenance.


Why Good Car-Keeping Matters

If your car has ever broken down on a deserted back road or on the highway during inclement weather, you’re likely aware of how frustrating the situation can be. However, a breakdown can be much more than a mere annoyance. In fact, a poorly maintained car can be both a safety hazard and a financial drain. Routinely servicing your car, meanwhile, can help it run more efficiently and keep you safe on the road. While car maintenance is essential for everyone, it’s particularly vital for older adults who may be more vulnerable to the consequences of breaking down. From being stuck on the road waiting for assistance on a frigid day to incurring unexpected repair costs on a fixed income, failure to keep up with proper car care can be much more than a temporary inconvenience for seniors; it can be a serious setback.

Car-Keeping Tips

Your aging loved one’s car doesn’t have to be brand new to be road-safe. In fact, some basic maintenance can help keep it in optimal condition. The most important rule of thumb? Make sure your aging loved one adheres to his/her vehicle’s service schedule. While juggling service reminders can be challenging, maintaining a log of all tune-ups is a simple way to stay on track.

What should servicing include? Fluid, tire pressure and tire tread checks can prevent everything from blowouts to engine failure. Keeping up with these tasks can also yield better gas mileage, improve traction, and extend the life and value of your car. Experts recommend, at minimum, a once-a-month check for ongoing safety.

Practicing a few skilled driving techniques can also help keep cars in good condition. Remind your aging loved one to wait at least 30 seconds after starting the car to hit the road; this gives oil time to circulate to all the moving parts. Calm driving techniques, including taking it easy on the brakes, shifting gears slowly, and avoiding full-throttle acceleration, have also been proven to reduce wear and tear. Additionally, it’s important to keep an ear out for unusual noises, which can signify a variety of ailments. While ignoring telltale signs like screeching brakes can lead to serious problems, a prompt trip to the mechanic can prevent breakdowns as well as expensive deferred maintenance costs.

Beyond the Routine

Even with the best maintenance, things can go amiss. In the event of a roadside emergency, make sure your aging loved one’s vehicle is outfitted with a safety kit including first aid supplies, jumper cables, emergency flares, a tire gauge, a waterproof flashlight and batteries, candles and matches, sunscreen, emergency blankets, a radio, bottled water, emergency phone numbers, emergency release forms, and a cell phone and charger.

Car Keeping and Changing Care Needs

If you are caring for an aging loved one who is still driving, do your best to take note of his/her car-keeping habits. While a neatly-kept and shiny vehicle suggests your loved one still has the time and energy to maintain his/her own mode of transportation, struggling to keep up with regular vehicle maintenance can be a sign that your loved one may need a bit more assistance in managing household responsibilities. Changes in your loved one’s care needs can make car-keeping more of a burden and driving more of a risk. If mom and dad are no longer able to care for themselves without help, they probably need some help in the transportation department, which can be difficult for many older adults to admit. Try to take a ride with your loved one periodically to stay aware of his/her vehicle condition and driving habits.

Ultimately, no car is trouble-proof or lasts forever, and at some point, maintaining a vehicle and driving may be too much for your loved one to manage. However, encouraging aging adults to practice good car-keeping is an effective way to minimize automotive troubles while maximizing senior safety on the roads.

Key Takeaways

  • While assessing senior driving skills is important, so is assessing senior vehicles.
  • Good car-keeping can help save money and save lives.
  • Car-keeping may offer an important clue as to how your loved one is managing driving and/or household responsibilities.
  • Caregivers can play an invaluable role in helping seniors keep up with routine car maintenance and driving safety.

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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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