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Elderly Driving - The Conversation
Written By : Denis Ashauer 
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The issue of driver safety is one that needs to be handled with sensitivity when talking with a loved one about surrendering their driving privileges. Most adult children, though acting out of good intentions, handle this situation poorly. Why? Because they cannot put themselves into the loved one's shoes, and understand what it is like to give up their independence and become totally dependent upon someone for transportation.

There are always seemingly insignificant indicators that one's driving skills have declined. They may include things such as scrape marks around the garage door where the vehicle's bumper has hit the opening, minor dents or paint smudges of another color on their vehicle, or reports from the neighbors or police.

If you have any concerns that your loved one may be a danger on the road, make up an excuse to ride along with them. Observe their vision, hearing, cognitive and motor skills. Pay particular attention when they make left hand turns because this is where many older adults have accidents. Observe their backing skills. Are they physically able to turn their head to look for other vehicles? How often do they use their mirrors? When approaching a stoplight, do they tend to stop well before they need to, indicating a depth perception problem? How is their reaction time? Reaction time decreases almost 40% on the average from age 35 to 65.

There can be medical conditions that should be taken into consideration such as:

  • Medications that should not be taken while driving.
  • Diabetes - when blood sugars are too low or too high.
  • Heart disease - when fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms affect strength and endurance or increase the risk of losing consciousness.
  • Seizure disorders - when seizures are not controlled. To be eligible for a driver's license, a person must be episode free for at least three months.

So you have survived the "ride along" with much distress and you are now in a panic about what to do next before your loved one gets behind the wheel again. There are always the emergency actions such as disabling the vehicle, hiding the key or blocking the vehicle in. These are extreme alternatives and should be used only in an emergency case.

A recommendation is to have a family meeting with your loved one and have a heart to heart talk. They need to realize that they are not only a danger to themselves but also to others. But before sitting down with your loved one, make a list of alternative forms of transportation so you will have a variety of choices. This may include public transportation. Offer to ride with them a few times to relieve their fears and become familiar with routes and entering and exiting the bus. If they can afford a taxi, look up and write the phone number down for them. Seek out friends or family members who are available and who they can rely on to take them shopping or to doctor appointments.

You may want to recommend that your loved one enroll in the Mature Driving Program which is completed by about 640,000 older adults annually. If all else fails, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicle office and request a DRIVER CONDITION OR BEHAVIOR REPORT (form MV3141).. This form will require a doctor's report on medical conditions and diagnosis. Using this report will make a third party responsible for the final decision and may relieve a lot of your stress and anxiety.

  About Author
  More from Denis Ashauer
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