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Five Common Mistakes When Dealing with Elderly Drivers


elderly drivers

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!

Get our popular “Taking Away the Car Keys” handout, chock full of tips and resource for elderly drivers!

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In the News: Senior Driving Safety


elderly driver safety

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.

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