When to Put the Brakes on Elderly Driving

When to Put the Brakes on Elderly Driving

It is never too early to start planning for those we care about. If someone you love is 70 or older and still driving, it may be time to start assessing the risks they may encounter on the road.

How aging affects the ability to drive
Driving, at any age, requires complex coordination and multitasking. Depending on the individual’s situation, there are physical and mental changes that accompany aging that could largely affect their ability to drive. These changes include neurological, physical, visual spatial, hearing and functional, in addition to changes in reaction times.

Signs that elderly driving could be a concern
If your loved one is easily overwhelmed, frequently loses their car keys, gets lost in familiar places or has run red lights, it might be time to discuss a safer means of transportation. Suggestions include having a friend or family member drive them or looking into other local resources.

How to address the situation
Whether you’re 16 or 75, a driver’s license means the same thing: freedom. Giving up such a freedom can be hard for those who have grown accustom to the privileges of driving. When discussing this subject with your loved one, make sure to include trusted family members and calmly address the situation. Have a plan set in place so they are aware their independence will not be compromised. It is important for them to know that family members are willing to provide transportation for their daily activities including shopping, medication pick ups and other errands. Also, make sure they are aware of transportation alternates such as Dial-A-Ride and the Elder Care Services volunteer transportation program.

Another option is to have this serious message come from a physician. It may create a long lasting impression and make the matter more serious. Individuals may be more inclined to give up their driver’s license if the message comes from their doctor.

Get help at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
There are several national programs offered by AARP, CARFIT and locally, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare evaluates the driving skills of senior drivers through the DiveABLE Assessment. The assessment measures the cognitive processes needed for safe driving. Individuals can complete the computerized assessment at the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center.

If all actions have been taken and your loved one still insists on driving it might be time to consider hiding their keys, disabling their car or even selling the car all together.

Even though this topic is one most individuals avoid, it is important we realize the true impact driving has on our loved ones. Together we can ensure the safety of our loved ones through driving programs and family assistance.

Driver safety
Regardless of your age, there are things that can be done to help decrease your risk of a car accident.

  • Consider your blind spot
    • Take time before you drive to readjust your rear-view and side mirrors to ensure your blind spots are eliminated. Whenever you change lanes, check the mirrors and glance back quickly to make sure no one is hiding in a blind spot.
  • Be proactive
    • If your vision is even slightly blurry, get it checked. If you are advised to get glasses or contacts, always wear them when driving.
  • Be honest with your physician
    • If you are open and honest with your physician about problems that could affect your driving, he or she could provide advice that could help you be a safe driver or help you make arrangements for another solution.

By reducing risks and incorporating safe driving practices, many people can continue driving safety well into their senior years. However, it’s important to pay attention to any warning signs so you can immediately identify when help is needed. Remember, if you find that a loved one needs to reduce their driving or completely hand in the keys, this doesn’t mean an end to their independence. When needed, having alternative methods of transportation can offer many benefits to your loved one and can also potentially save a life.

To learn more
For more information and to learn more about elderly driving, please see a list of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare resources below.

  • TMH Physician Partners - Neurology Specialists, visit TMH.ORG/Neuro or call 850-431-5001.
  • Tallahassee Memorial Memory Disorder Clinic, visit TMH.ORG/Memory or call 850-431-5001.
  • Tallahassee Memorial Neuro Rehabilitation, visit TMH.ORG/Rehab or call 850-431-5164.
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology and The Balance Disorders Clinic, call 850-878-3592.

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