It’s a hard decision to make. When do you take the car keys away from the senior in your life? While many things go into this decision, getting input from your loved one’s doctor, as well as any other caregivers, can make it a little easier. This way you won’t be making the choice alone.
Here are a few things to think about when considering the right time for your senior loved one to stop driving:
What is their physical capability? The skill of driving requires dexterity, fast response time, quick reflexes and the ability to multi-task. If they can still do all this, make sure they have strength in their feet for the pedals, as well as the ability to sit at the proper height.
Check their vision. It’s really important that you get a thorough eye exam for your senior. Check for glaucoma, cataracts or just blurred vision.
How is their physical endurance? Our bodies are always best when we are in motion. If your senior loved one has little mobility or doesn’t exercise, their bodies will not be as agile as they need to be.
Think about their medications. Many medicines cause side effects and a big one for driving is drowsiness. Be sure that their medications do not carry side effects that would have a negative impact on their cognitive ability.
Do they have diseases? The main thing you’re looking for here is mental impairment. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, it may be time to take the keys. If they aren’t showing any signs of confusion, then they may be fine for a while. You should also check for diabetes, as this can have serious effects if not managed.
In addition to all of these things, consider the following points to help you make an informed decision:
• Near misses while driving, or even accidents
• Sudden changes in personality
• Chronic health problems such as diabetes
• Medication changes
• Alcohol intake
• Multiple traffic violations
Finally, be sure you understand your state laws concerning senior driving. There are restrictions, so take the time to understand them. Talk to their doctor and ask for help making this all-important decision. Remember—they are there to help!
If the time has come to take away the car keys, make sure you do it with love and empathy. Allow your senior’s dignity to remain intact by arranging another source of transportation when they need it. If they live alone, this may include a taxi or a bus pass.
It’s never an easy decision to take the keys because it’s such a symbol of freedom. Just think back to how nervous your parents must have been when you were learning to drive! Clear communication and empathy will go a long way in easing the tension around taking away the car keys. Your senior loved one’s safety is of utmost importance here! If possible, allow them to help make the decision. If they are a part of the process, things will most likely go a lot smoother.
It’s tough to remove any measure of control from our loved ones. While it’s never easy, it is important to consider not just their safety, but also the safety of others on the road. You may very well be avoiding a tragic accident by being willing to remove the keys when the time is right.
For more tips for seniors, visit our Home Helpers senior home care blog.
Home Helpers of San Mateo County is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in Burlingame, San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, Daly City, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, Foster City, Hillsborough, Pacifica, Millbrae, Montara, and San Bruno.