One of the most challenging times for an older adult is when they start realizing they might need to give up driving. Driving is a big part of our sense of independence. But, realistically, everyone loses physical and/or cognitive function over time, to the point where they are no longer safe behind the wheel.
If your parents should no longer drive, it’s your responsibility to step in. Not only is their safety at stake, but they could be putting others in danger as well. Here are some tips that may help.
- Start the conversation before it’s needed.
Ideally, you will have touched on the subject with your parents before a change is urgent. Many older adults alter their driving habits voluntarily as their physical abilities change. They may start avoiding nighttime driving or stop making left-hand turns across oncoming traffic. If that’s the case, you have a way to start the conversation.
- Ask them to talk to their doctor.
If your parent brushes off the conversation, ask them to talk to their doctor. “Older adults typically prefer to speak confidentially about driving safety with someone they trust. Often family members can form a united front with doctors and friends to help older drivers make good driving decisions,” according to a conversation guide available from the American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA). That’s not to say family members aren’t trusted, but rather the parent may give more credence to a doctor’s input. The guide also points out that a doctor may not be comfortable making a judgment based solely on physical exams and office visits. They may instead refer the patient to an occupational therapist for evaluation.
- Talk about options.
Handing over the keys doesn’t mean the person needs to be homebound. Talk about options such as the local bus system, rideshare options, grocery delivery, Uber, or neighbors or loved ones who are willing to drive. At Windward, our home care aides are happy to drive clients to appointments, errands and social activities.
- Discuss risks.
Help your parent understand the potential consequences if they’re involved in an accident, whether or not they caused it. A wreck can affect them physically, financially, and mentally, which could have a domino effect on other areas of life. Additionally, talk about the potential danger to other people.
- Suggest a driving evaluation.
Driving evaluation services can help the older adult assess whether they are still safe to drive. The assessment might find that the person can keep driving with adaptive technology such as pedal extenders or seat lifts. Check the local phone book or do an online search. You will have to pay for the evaluation, and it’s not usually covered by insurance.
Your aging parents should have the necessary resources to support a healthy, safe lifestyle. If you are looking for local resources, our team at Windward Life Care is here to help. Contact us to learn about available services.