Helping the elderly to stop driving
The Savvy SeniorFebruary 22, 2012 | 1,797 views | Post a comment
Dear Savvy Senior,
I’m worried about my father’s driving. At age 84, his driving skills have diminished significantly, but I know he’s bound and determined to keep going as long as he’s alive. What tips can you recommend that can help me help my dad stop driving?
For many families, telling an elderly parent it’s time to give up the car keys is a very sensitive and difficult topic. While there’s no one simple way to handle this issue, here are a number of tips and resources you can try to help ease your dad away from driving.
Take a Ride
To get a clear picture of your dad’s driving abilities, the first thing you need to do is take a ride with him watching for problem areas. For example: Does he drive too slow or too fast? Does he tailgate or drift between lanes? Does he have difficulty seeing, backing up, or changing lanes? Does he react slowly? Does he get distracted or confused easily? Also, has your dad had any fender benders or tickets lately, or have you noticed any dents or scrapes on his vehicle? These, too, are red flags.
After your assessment, you need to have a talk with your dad about your concerns, but don’t sound alarmed. If you begin with a dramatic outburst like “Dad, you’re going to kill someone!” you’re likely to trigger resistance. Start by gently expressing that you’re worried about his safety.
For tips on how to talk to your dad about this touchy topic, the Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT AgeLab offer some guides titled “Family Conversations with Older Drivers” and “Family Conversations about Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia & Driving” that can help, along with an online seminar called “We Need to Talk” that was produced by AARP. To access these free resources, visit safedrivingforalifetime.com.
Like many elderly seniors, your dad may not even realize his driving skills have slipped. If this is the case, consider signing him up for an older driver refresher course through AARP (aarp.org/drive, 888-227-7669), your local AAA, or a driving school.
By becoming aware of his driving limitations, your dad may be able to make some simple adjustments -- like driving only in daylight or on familiar routes -- that can help keep him safe and driving longer. Or, he may decide to hang up the keys on his own.
Refuses To Quit
If, however, you believe your dad has reached the point that he can no longer drive safely, but he refuses to quit, you have several options. One possible solution is to suggest a visit to his doctor who can give him a medical evaluation, and if warranted, “prescribe” that he stops driving. Older people will often listen to their doctor before they will listen to their own family.
If that doesn’t do it, ask him to get a comprehensive driving evaluation done by a driver rehabilitation specialist -- this can cost several hundred dollars. A driving evaluation will test your dad’s cognition, vision, and motor skills, as well as his on-road driving abilities. To locate a specialist in your area, contact the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (driver-ed.org, 866-672-9466) or the American Occupational Therapy Association (aota.org/older-driver).
If he still refuses to move to the passenger seat, call your local Department of Motor Vehicles to see if they can help. Or, call in an attorney to discuss with your dad the potential financial and legal consequences of a crash or injury. If all else fails, you may just have to take away his keys.
Once your dad stops driving, he’s going to need other ways to get around, so help him create a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends, and local transportation services that he can call on. To locate community transportation services, call the Area Agency on Aging. Call 1-800-677-1116 for contact information.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
A creepy Halloween party appetizer (October 19, 2016)
Applying for Social Security (October 19, 2016)
Chili Cook-off to benefit Wilson County youth (October 19, 2016)
DRT joins Heritage Music Festival (October 19, 2016)
DRT to meet Oct. 24 in Kerrville (October 19, 2016)
Enjoy Harvest Festival in Marion (October 19, 2016)
Enter Pecan Bake Show (October 19, 2016)
Little Golden Books (October 19, 2016)
Make plans for Halloween fun and fall fests (October 19, 2016)
Meeting the needs of the community: St. Vincent de Paul (October 19, 2016)
R&B legend opens Carver season Oct. 29 (October 19, 2016)
Readers share their spooky tales, part two (October 19, 2016)
Road Runners plan Oct. 22 group run (October 19, 2016)
See country legends Oct. 22 (October 19, 2016)
Try your hand at square dancing (October 19, 2016)
Turn yard waste into gardener’s gold (October 19, 2016)
Baptist church to ring in 100 years (October 12, 2016)
Church plans Junk and Treasure Sale (October 12, 2016)
Comal Country Music Show is Oct. 18 (October 12, 2016)
Davy Crockett (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy fried chicken in Poth Oct. 23 (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy this flashy winter resident (October 12, 2016)
Join in the 2016 Rosary Crusade (October 12, 2016)
National Charity League plans celebration (October 12, 2016)
New program increases student knowledge of E-cigarette dangers (October 12, 2016)
Play bunco in La Vernia Oct. 22 (October 12, 2016)
Pondering a poignant letter from the past (October 12, 2016)
Save the date for Oct. 22 March for Life (October 12, 2016)
Should you redeem old savings bonds? (October 12, 2016)
Show Barn Cook-off approaching (October 12, 2016)
Sutherland Springs Old Town Day (October 12, 2016)
The business of aging grows more complex (October 12, 2016)
Try your luck at China Grove Lions Club Casino Night (October 12, 2016)
Atascosa County Craft Show seeks vendors (October 5, 2016)
Beautify your landscape with cacti (October 5, 2016)
Experience Oktoberfest in San Antonio (October 5, 2016)
Gilded peanuts and golden memories — recalling past Floresville Peanut Festivals (October 5, 2016)
Japan Fest set for Oct. 16 (October 5, 2016)
Meal service delivery options for seniors who don’t cook (October 5, 2016)
Oktoberfest comes to Floresville Oct. 15 (October 5, 2016)
Past Pirate champions will never be forgotten (October 5, 2016)
Readers share their ‘spooky’ tales (October 5, 2016)
Sacred Springs PowWow (October 5, 2016)
Shorter teapot (October 5, 2016)
Sinatra tribute comes to Kerrville (October 5, 2016)
Stockdale librarian updates Blue Bonnet Club members (October 5, 2016)
Sunnyside 4-H Bake Sale (October 5, 2016)
Time for turkey in Cestohowa (October 5, 2016)