Concerned about an aging parent’s driving abilities?
This is a common issue for many families as their loved ones age. Dealing with elderly drivers is at once both a very personal and societal issue. It is essential that we find ways to stay healthy and active, yet safe, as an aging population.
Our Aging Wisely team offers a lot of resources for elderly drivers and their families (sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date and get free resources!). Today, we’ll share five common mistakes we see when families are dealing with elderly drivers and their concerns (and what to do instead).
1. Assuming elderly drivers should not be driving simply based on a particular age
Driving abilities are impacted by sensory deficits, certain health problems and cognitive issues, which often go along with aging. But, how these issues affect individuals varies greatly. A healthy 80-year old may be safer on the road than his 65-year old counterpart who is ill with Parkinson’s disease or mid/late stage dementia. Don’t assume your loved one should stop driving just because of hitting a certain age. Instead, track health issues and specific concerns. A senior driver assessment can help separate age from ability/problems.
2. Thinking your aging parent will be fine because he/she only drives in a limited area or during the daytime
Yes, putting limitations on driving does help and many elderly drivers can continue driving longer if they are aware of their own limitations (night driving is a common weak area due to changing vision). However, if you are noticing concerns, such limitations may or may not be enough at some point.
3. Ignoring your concerns because you don’t know what to do
If you feel strongly that there is a problem, your suspicions are probably correct. Our experts are available to talk to you anytime about how to proceed and different options. Don’t ignore potential driving safety issues…you could be putting your parent’s life (and many others) in danger.
4. Confronting your aging parent about driving without planning out the conversation or considering the approach
Take time to think about what you want to say and how to approach the conversation. When is a good time to talk? Who should be there? What approach works best with your aging parent? You should have specific concerns and issues you have noticed, as well as some ideas about what to do. You should plan enough time to listen to your parent. Don’t inadvertently treat your parent like a child. The conversation should take place over time when possible, perhaps starting with a proactive discussion of future needs (especially when faced with a diagnosis that will likely affect driving).
5. Not having a post-driving plan/resources
This is one of the most common mistakes we see. Families, understandably, are so focused on the issue of getting their parents to stop driving they give little thought to what might happen after (or assume this means the elder will have to move to an assisted living facility). It is vital to explore local senior transportation resources and have different options available. Often, adult children will offer to drive their parents or suggest asking neighbors to help, but give your parents other options so they don’t feel trapped or beholden to friends and family.
Our care managers are senior care experts and can perform assessments, assist in navigating the conversation, and help you create a customized “post-driving plan”. Call us at 727-447-5845!