Road Sage

For many seniors, one of the hardest lifestyle adjustments of aging is having to give up the keys. Not only does being able to drive oneself make everything easier and more convenient, but it is representative of the freedom and independence that everyone wants.

Unlike getting your license as a teenager, there is no legally mandated age at which you are expected to surrender it. In many cases, it is up to the individual and their families to decide when it is no longer safe for a senior to drive. This can be a bit of a minefield, and often families put off these conversations until an incident has occurred or the senior’s driving has become noticeably dangerous – which makes it even more challenging when the talk does eventually occur.

In order to avoid this, we recommend asking yourself these questions when determining whether it's still safe for your senior to drive:

  • Does your senior feel less comfortable and more nervous or fearful while driving?
  • Do they have difficulty staying in the lane of travel?
  • Are there more frequent close calls or near crashes?
  • Are there more dents and scrapes on their vehicle, and on fences, mailboxes, garage doors and curbs along their route?
  • Does your senior have trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance or exit ramps?
  • Does your senior have difficulty turning their head to check over their shoulder while backing up or changing lanes?
  • Is your senior easily distracted or do they have trouble concentrating while driving?
  • Is your senior getting lost more often?

If you’ve determined that, indeed, it is time to have a conversation with your senior about driving, it’s important to remain calm and have ideas ready for alternative methods of transportation for your senior. Here are some other things we have found to work well:

  • Explain the situation directly and share your feelings of concern and worry.
  • Recognize that your loved one may genuinely worry about losing his or her independence and being cut off from familiar friends and activities. Offer alternatives like a senior transportation service, a taxi, or rides from another family member.
  • Consider hiring in-home help and make having a valid driver’s license a job requirement.
  • Don’t become the bad guy. Encourage your senior to quit driving because it is the doctor’s order or the wishes of the family as a whole. You can also hire an expert to give an independent driving evaluation and agree to follow his or her advice. The DMV will provide this service or can suggest names.
  • When a person becomes quite confused or disabled, drastic steps may be required, such as hiding the keys, disabling the car, or removing the car altogether.

For more information about caring for seniors, or to inquire about hiring a professional CAREGiver to provide transportation and other services to a senior in your life, please contact Home Instead of Central Oregon at 541-330-6400.




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