One of the topics we frequently address, both from an educational perspective and in helping families, is the issue of when it’s time for an elderly parent to stop driving. This topic occasionally hits the news, as it did recently in our area when a 87-year old Seminole woman was hit by an 88-year old backing up in a parking lot. Unfortunately, the woman who was hit sustained serious injuries and the investigation is ongoing. It is a sad situation for both the elders and their families and whatever the outcome, it reminds us of the potential hazards for senior drivers.
Seniors are generally a very safe group of drivers. However, there are sensory and other age-related changes which can affect driving abilities. Additionally, certain medical conditions and medications make it inadvisable to drive. For these reasons:
- Older drivers have much higher rates of highway crashes and deaths than all other age groups with the exception of teens. Fatality rates rise steeply for those over 65.
- People 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-aged drivers.
- Accidents tend to be more fatal for older drivers due to their fragility.
How do I know if it’s time for my elderly parent to stop driving?
- If you have concerns based on observations or your parent’s health condition, those concerns are likely valid. Age alone does not determine if someone is safe to continue driving; a healthy senior may be a safe driver until a very late age. But, if you are noticing changes, it is worth getting an assessment and beginning the discussion with your loved one.
- A care manager can help you: assess the situation, set up an official driver safety evaluation, and approach the subject.
- A professional driver safety evaluation provides an objective assessment of the driver’s abilities.
What can I do if I feel my elderly Mom (or Dad) shouldn’t be driving?
We believe it is very important to act on your concerns. For the safety of your loved one and others, you don’t want to regret your inaction. Think about what is concerning you and make notes about your observations or worries. It can be a difficult process, however, and your loved one might not agree with your opinion. Depending on the situation, you may need help with the evaluation, conversation and decision process. You can get more detailed advice and resources in our handout Taking Away the Car Keys and our experienced care management team can help you with your specific circumstances.
There are also modifications that may allow your loved one to continue driving for some time. Your concerns may point to the need for new eyeglasses or further medical evaluation. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it is especially important to monitor this issue as driving requires complex thinking skills compromised by dementia.
When the decision is made to stop driving, a “post-driving plan” should be made. Too often seniors become isolated and depressed when they feel their freedom has been taken away. The person may not wish to “be a burden” to friends and family for transportation needs and may be uncomfortable with alternative transportation. Check out EasyLiving’s article, Thriving without Driving, and let us help you approach the discussion and decision in the best way possible.
Contact our expert eldercare team for help with: senior driving safety evaluations, tips for having the conversation, support through the decision making process and creating a “post-driving” plan that ensures a continued quality of life.