Without a doubt, the decision to hand over the car keys is one of the most difficult decisions and transitions an aging family will make. It’s the one day-to-day task that is critical to an older adult’s ability to maintain their independence and without the ability to drive they become more dependent on you and a bit more isolated from society.
It’s a BIG deal and not an easy issue to address…
Unlike other areas of day-to-day life, your elderly parent behind the wheel of a car may not only be risky for them but it can put innocent people in harm’s way as well. A little tough love may need to be applied to convince your mom or dad they are not safe behind the wheel of a car. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself and them does a person’s right to remain independent supersede public safety?
The decision of when to retire from driving should be based on abilities not age or diagnosis. But how do we know when it’s time to get serious about this conversation about handing over the car keys? Before you endure any more sleepless nights consider making an appointment with your mom or dad’s physician and start asking these questions about safe driving.
Is mom’s vision good enough for her to drive safely? Vision is essential to safe driving so obviously a loss of it puts your elderly parents and other people on the road at risk. On the other hand, vision changes don’t preclude the inability of an older adult to be a safe driver. Ask about the types of vision exams that have been conducted and if your elderly parent has a diagnosis related to vision.
Is dad’s physical health good enough for him to drive safely? Driving is an activity that requires a certain amount of physical abilities such as muscle strength, endurance and range of motion. A limited range of motion in our neck makes it difficult to maneuver a car; same with upper and lower mobility. Also, ask about medication interactions and dizziness.
Is dad’s cognitive abilities good enough for him to drive safely? People tend to think that because they can accurately report the day of the week or remember what state they are in that their memory is fine. What the average person doesn’t realize is that it’s the fluid memory that’s most important when it comes to driving safely; judgement, reasoning and the ability to think quickly. Ask the doctor what types of cognitive screens they have conducted and what the results were.
Again, not every elderly driver is unsafe on the road and the decision needs to be based on abilities not age or diagnosis but I’m tired of this issue being swept under the rug. Believe me when I tell you I understand the issues go much deeper and a simple trip to the doctor is probably not going to solve this problem for you. But without a doubt, a trip to your elderly parent’s doctor is the first place to start. If you’re concerned, the sooner the better.
With my clients, I’ve been more than a little disappointed at the lack of comprehensive assessing that’s being conducted and the lack of support in asking the tough questions. How about you? Have you had any luck in this area? By leaving a comment, you can help another adult child of an elderly parent…
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