First of all, whether seniors are in theirs 70´s or 80´s they still able to drive safely, but the most important fact is the risks they run if they are involved in a car accident. When people are over 70, it is more probable they will suffer from serious injuries, which will require hospitalization and they are more likely to die compared to young people involved in the same kind of car accident. As a caregiver, being aware of the risks and signs of a senior unable to drive safely will help you to determine when is the right time to ask for the car keys. The caregiver should also know the strategies to break the news to a loved one about leaving driving behind and choosing other transport alternatives.

Some of the signs are age related and obviously they affect seniors’ driving abilities. Among them we can mention:

  • Poor Eyesight: the perception of depth, narrow peripheral vision, lack of judgment concerning speed, bad night vision and sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Hearing disorders: seniors tend to experiment hearing loss over the years which inable them to hear warning sounds.
  • Lack of mobility and flexibility: increases response times, choosing a pedal, steering or even looking for hazards stops being an easy task.
  • Parkinson, arthritis or any other chronic condition can affect a senior´s driving ability.
  • Drugs: seniors usually take more drugs than the rest of us, when they are combined with other medication or with alcohol they can have unpredictable side-effects.
  • Drowsiness: one of the side-effects of some drugs, that make the patient feel tired and sleepy, which can be dangerous while driving.
  • Brain disorder diseases: can cause delay reaction which make driving frustrating or more dangerous.

Time to give up driving:

Probably the most complicated talk we have to face is when we have to tell a loved one that they need to stop driving. It might be wiser for a relative, friend or a close caregiver to let them know, as if it was a piece of advice, instead of a judge or the DMV. It makes it even more difficult when the person has almost all her/his faculties. Seniors appeared to be unwilling to hang up the keys, when driving is one of the few things that makes them feel self-sufficient.

How to break the news:

The author of “How to Age Smart, Stay Fit and Be Happy”, Harriet Vines Suggests:

Thoroughly think about what so say and how to say it.

Be considerate “Imagine how you would feel if you were in your parent’s place,” Vines says. It helps if other members of the family are involved, to support not to confront.

Have a honest, non-accusatory conversation. Mentioning things like: “We’re concerned,” “We care” or “We don’t want you to get hurt or to hurt others.” can help. Then when you all agree to try to support and help your loved one by offering rides and transport help.

Help your loved one to express his/herself in a positive way and to feel comfortable when asking for help.

Making a schedule or planning activities for a day-out when the caregiver cant take them is also a good idea.

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