When Driving Is No Longer An Option
The issue most adult children don’t know how to face
There are many jokes told about the elderly and driving. Joke or not, experts agree that the answer to the question at what age should a person stop driving or to whether someone is fit to drive cannot be determined by age alone. Biological age and chronological age are two completely different things. Despite what people may think, older drivers are among the safest drivers on the road according to the Auto Club of Southern California. Older drivers often voluntarily avoid high-risk driving situations, such as driving at night or in bad weather.
Nevertheless, aging does affects driving ability in three distinct areas: perceptual, such as deteriorating vision; physical, such as loss of strength and flexibility; and cognitive, such as diminished or slow mental processing.
Unfortunately, there comes a day when the older driver can drive no more. Folks over the age of 65 now constitute the fastest-growing segment of the US population. For the vast majority of this segment of the population, the increasing inability to drive is a major concern. Anxiety grows about losing the freedom and mobility that driving provides. More and more families are facing a situation where they have to confront their loved one about giving up this valuable privilege.
According to the auto club, things to look out for are: unexplained dents and scrapes on the vehicle, mailbox, or garage door; feeling uncomfortable or anxious while driving; delayed responses to unexpected driving situation; difficulty paying attention to signals, road signs, and pavement markings; increased “close call” or “near misses”; and getting lost or confused on familiar roads and neighborhoods.
While the decision to ask a loved one to give up their driving privileges is painful, doing so can avoid tragedy. And, from my personal experience, most family members know when it is the right time to do so. Making this difficult decision can be eased for family members if other accommodations are made so that the elderly loved one can retain some of the freedom and independence that driving provided.
Many retirement communities provide transportation for their residents so that mobility and independence can be retained at some level. But, for the elderly who do not have access to such services, a qualified caregiver could provide the best solution. A valid drivers license and impeccable driving record must be part of the
rigorous screening criteria required for a qualified caregiver. Owning a reliable and safe vehicle for client transportation is a plus as well.
A reputable home care agency will pride itself on providing fully screened, licensed caregivers who own their own vehicle or are qualified to operate the client’s vehicle on their behalf. In addition to the many services provided by the caregivers, this qualification provides the next best thing to total freedom, mobility and independence for the clients. Stress and anxiety are not only eliminated for the client but for their family members as well.
Additional resources for and about senior drivers and their families can be found at the American Occupational Therapy Association; the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialist: the California DMV senior Ombudsman Program; Eldercare Locator; and at Seniordriving.aaa.com.