Should Your Senior Loved One Be Driving?
Driving represents independence for seniors, allowing them to feel less isolated and to take advantage of everything a community has to offer. However, driving may not be the best option for everyone. Even though your loved one may be healthy, seniors develop slower reflexes, reaction times and decreased cognitive abilities as they age. If you have a senior loved one who drives, it’s important to keep a close eye out for any signs that it may be time for them to hand over the keys.
Go for a Drive and Check for Safety:
Many seniors overestimate their ability to drive safely. Let your senior drive you on a familiar route, one that includes both high and low traffic areas and look for any warning signs of diminished driving skills. Remember driving is not about convenience or lifestyle… it’s about safety for everyone.
Things to watch for:
- Did your loved one forget to buckle their seat belt?
- Did they make a complete stop at red lights and stop signs?
- Did they obey speed limits and other signage?
- Did they show good reaction time, and were they alert?
- Did they drift into other traffic lanes or onto the shoulder?
- Did they always use the turn signals?
- Did they break or accelerate unnecessarily?
- Did they become needlessly agitated by other drivers?
- Did they exhibit problems seeing?
- Did they use their cell phone or text while driving?
- Did they become confused or lost?
- Did they have trouble making turns at intersections or parking?
- Did you feel safe while riding with them?
- Would you allow other family members to ride with them?
Discussing the Problem:
Talking to loved ones about any difficult life decisions can be one of the hardest parts of caregiving. If you decide that it’s time to discuss the realities of driving, try to keep the conversation centered on their safety and the safety of others. If you base the conversation solely on their limitations or driving skills, they may become defensive. However, if you focus on their well-being, it can be easier to show that you’re speaking out of concern, and not trying to exert control. Often this conversation can be a natural transition to having a discussion about moving to Assisted Living or other Senior Care facilities here in Jacksonville, Amelia Island, Fernandina, Orange Park, Ponte Vedra, and St. Augustine.
The National Highway Safety Administration suggests that older adults may minimize hazardous situations by staying on routes with low traffic and safe intersections, while driving only during the day and when weather conditions are good. Seniors should also have their vision checked regularly and be wary of any medications that may interfere with their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.