A Third Party Can Help Ease Elders' Driving Issues
Your loved one's doctor can be a friend indeed
One of the most profound losses of independence an elder must face is the end of his or her driving privileges. A fortunate few don’t face this loss until their ninth decade. However, the realities of weakening eyes, slowing response times, and for some, mental decline, make driving cessation a fact of life for some in their 60s, and for many in their 70s and 80s.
Rare is the elder who voluntarily gives up driving, though it does happen. My dad’s sight was declining, and before he even reached 70, he voluntarily gave up the keys. Unfortunately, after his brain surgery and resulting dementia, he began insisting he could still drive, but that was the dementia talking.
How to get their parents to stop driving is a frequently asked question from people who are only beginning to see a decline in their elders.
My short answer for them is that they need to involve a third party. This is an emotional subject for the elder, not just a practicality. A doctor can be a friend indeed, if he or she can let the elder know that driving is out of the question because of a physical problem. An elder will often listen to his or her doctor before listening to anyone else. The problem, of course, is that most doctors don’t see the elder drive.
In previous columns, I’ve mentioned TheHartford.com and AARP.org. Another very good site for driving issues is SeniorDrivers.org. All of these Web sites have tips on what to watch for and questions to ask.
Most recommend that you ride along with the elder. They suggest you start the conversation early, so you can curtail driving in stages, such as by asking them to drive only during the day or under certain conditions. It also helps immensely if you think ahead about how the elders will get where they need to go. How will they get groceries? How will they get to church? To a weekly coffee gathering? If you’ve got a plan, you will find this journey easier.
Published July 19, 2010