Facts About Senior DrivingPosted by in Aging | Alzheimer's | Dementia | Home Health Care | Medicare
Driving is a key to a person’s independence and self image of being independent. Being able to get into your car and drive where you want to is something seniors have likely been doing for sixty years or more. Are seniors safe drivers? Are health changes precursors to dangers on the road? Boca Home Care Services shares facts and recommendations about our elderly relatives on the the road.
Here in South Florida, driving is almost essential. We don’t have subways or many taxis driving around and things are very spread out. It is HOT so waiting for a bus isn’t the best thing for aging riders.
Compared to young drivers, seniors tend to use seat belts, drive the speed limit, or slower, don’t drive at night or on highways as much. If they are in a crash though, it can be more dangerous or lethal to them because of weaker bones, heart disease, other health problems and the fact that as we age, we recover from injuries more slowly. As we are living a lot longer than ever before, we also have much older drivers on the road than previously.
According to Seniordriving.aaa.com:
80% of folks in their seventies have Arthritis which can make handling the wheel more difficult for turning and grasping.
Being less flexible, limited range of motion or having weaker muscles can affect steering, and pressing down on the gas pedal and brakes.
Aging tends to bring on some vision and hearing impairment and slower reaction times. Clearly this affects driving.
Seniors use many more medications are often unaware of any side effects which makes driving more dangerous – such as dizziness tiredness.
Fatality rates for seniors, per mile, rise at age 75 and spike more after eighty and are 17 times greater than younger drivers – mostly due to fragile bones and other medical conditions.
In 2030 there will be 70 million Americans over sixty-five and up to 90% of them will be driving.
The need for transportation is a leading reason why elderly clients seek home care. Driving or the ability to safely use public transportation can be diminished for family members in their eighties and older. There are likely other physical or cognitive changes which lead to the decision to hire a caregiver. Getting to the supermarket, doctor appointment, out to social activities, the bank or post office are all things we may take for granted. They are all important for overall well being. A caregiver/aide assists with personal care as needed, prepares meals, does the laundry and light housekeeping and serves as a driver. All combined, these responsibilities enable an elderly family member to remain independent in their own home and in less danger when getting around town.
A spouse, adult son or daughter or friend is usually aware that driving may have become too difficult and risky for a loved one. How do you begin the conversation without alienating your parent?
Choose your timing of the conversation, when things are calm. There isn’t a simple way to broach the conversation of someone’s driving safety but it can be done in a respectful way. Safety may be your main concern, independence or freedom may be theirs – since they don’t view their driving as a problem. Don’t assume after one conversation they will stop driving. You are firstly presenting your concerns and steering toward an alternative plan.
Don’t start with an intervention or with a family gathering. It can be between you and your parent. This isn’t a one time conversation. In future discussions you may suggest they speak with their doctor and about doing a Senior Driving Assessment. If your loved one is greatly impaired and a clear danger to him/herself and other drivers, then you must be more pro-active. Speak to their primary physician, let them be the heavy of suggesting they can no longer drive. In more extreme situations, the authorities can be notified – anonymously, keys get lost or taken away, car is in the shop for an extended period or the car is sold.
Expect your parent to react to this topic with an array of feelings; anger, embarrassment, fear, hurt. If you are lucky they will voluntarily hand over their keys and agree not to drive. Few people will react this way. Give them time to absorb your concern, information and put together a plan to compensate for their loss of driving.
You can control yourself and no one else. Expect denial of any problem. You do not need to become defensive. Be patient and empathetic. Acknowledge that this is a difficult conversation, it is upsetting and try to focus on some solutions that will keep them safe and able to get around.
Demanding the keys and lecturing your parent will just make their defenses grow larger and make any further discussion unlikely.
Encourage them to get a driving assessment or do a self rating program. Get their ideas.
You are working with them to put together a feasible plan. It will be difficult to give up the ease of driving oneself around and becoming a passenger. Research Senior public transportation programs, taxi prices and bus routes. Some cab companies may offer a monthly fee plan for routine destinations.
Remember, if you are dealing with loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease or other Dementia, they really ought not be driving. Should a crash occur, even if they are not at fault, if the other driver thinks your loved one may be cognitively impaired, then a lawsuit could follow and memory medications will be revealed.
I’ve met very few clients where concerns for their personal safety, or that of other drivers has had much of an impact. But the threat of a lawsuit and financial loss has more often sparked the change to give up driving and find another means of getting around. Adult children also react more quickly to this financial and legal threat once it is brought to their attention.
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