If you are family caregiver for a senior loved one, you already know how difficult it can be to approach seniors with concerns about their health, safety and ability to care for themselves. Unfortunately, the topic of driving is not an easier topic, it is a very sensitive issue to discuss with seniors.
Having a dialogue about whether or not your senior loved one should stop driving is one more reminder that the senior is starting to lose his or her freedom and independence.
In This Senior Safety Driving Article:
If you care for a senior loved one, you are likely accustomed to looking for signs that their need for assistance may be increasing or their mental health is declining. You can determine whether or not a senior should stop driving by looking for some warning signs like:
- An increase in tickets and verbal warnings given by police officers
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical limitations that make it difficult to check blind spots
- New, unexplained dents or damage to the senior’s car, the garage or the curb
- Visual impairment that makes it difficult to read traffic signs or judge distance
- Confusion or memory decline – forgetting how to get to familiar places or frequently getting lost
If the senior driver is experiencing any of these signs, it may be time to start talking to your loved one about limiting their driving or perhaps telling them to stop driving.
It is essential for you to address these concerns prior to an incident that could lead to injury or result in the death of your loved one or someone else. You may feel hesitant to tell your aging loved one that you think driving may no longer be a good idea, but that discomfort is far more manageable than the regret and inability to forgive yourself if a serious accident happens. So don’t wait too long before you initiate the conversation.
Talking to your loved one about their diminishing driving ability is likely going to be an uncomfortable situation. You can make this conversation smoother and less painful for both of you by following these tips:
- Understand that giving up the seniors’ car keys is equivalent to giving up a large portion of their freedom, including who they can visit, how often they can go out and which activities they are able to enjoy.
- Accept that an issue of this importance may not be resolved in a single sitting.
- Come to the table prepared with ideas for alternative transportation.
- Encourage them to discuss their concerns and what it will mean for them if they stop driving.
- Avoid embarrassing the senior. Initiate the conversation when you are alone or with other close family members.
- Attempt to determine the specific problem or problems causing the driving difficulties to see if a new pair of glasses, a change in medications or an assistive device might allow them to continue driving.
One of the primary issues with losing your ability to drive is the freedom and independence that is lost along with it. For seniors, this is often one more life-changing event in a long line of changes that have resulted in less freedom, privacy, self sufficiency and autonomy. To assist your loved one in making this transition as comfortable as possible, show him or her that independence and freedom is still possible without a car by using alternative transportation options.
Transportation solutions vary by area, but it is very likely that your community offers some sort of senior transportation option that is affordable or, possibly, free. If the senior lives in an assisted living facility, look into regularly scheduled shuttle services that may deliver seniors to shopping centers and doctors appointments.
Walking and bicycling are also great money-saving and health-promoting alternatives to driving if the senior lives near shopping, dining and entertainment options. There is also public transportation, including buses, local trains and subways, as well as taxis, community-based shuttle services and ride-sharing programs. If you live in the area, you can also offer to give your loved one rides to appointments, the grocery store, friends’ houses and other places they frequent.
For more information about transportation options and how to find out what is available in your area, you can contact your local senior centers for more information.
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