It’s one of the hardest things older people have to do – give up their car keys.
“It’s one of the most difficult discussions that families will have with senior loved ones because they equate driving with independence,” said Mark Goetz, co-founder, and president of the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “There is no magic number – no set age when people should stop driving. However, we know that many seniors drive, on average, seven to ten years longer than they probably should.”
There are a number of age-related issues that could impact your aging loved one’s ability to drive, including poor vision, hearing problems, and joint/muscle issues. For example, arthritis could affect the ability to grasp the wheel, or arthritic hips or knees could slow reaction time or make it difficult to break.
So, how do you know when it’s time to start having discussions about limiting or stopping driving? Here are some things to consider:
- Does your aging loved one get lost on familiar routes?
- Have you noticed new dents, scratches, or other damage to his/her car?
- Has your loved one received a warning or ticket for poor driving?
- Has he/she experienced any close calls?
- Has his/her doctor expressed concerns?
- Does your loved one take medication that may affect their ability to drive?
- Does he/she have a chronic physical condition that may impact their ability to drive safely – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, glaucoma, etc.
- Does he/she drive too slowly?
- Does he/she get overwhelmed by traffic, signals, road markings, etc.?
- Does your loved one become angry or defensive when you talk about his/her driving?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s probably time to start the driving conversation. A great resource to help you prepare is We Need to Talk – a free online seminar developed jointly with the Hartford and MIT AgeLab and offered through AARP. It will help you assess your loved one’s driving skills and provide tools for a productive discussion.
“Giving up the car keys doesn’t mean your aging loved ones have to lose their independence,” Goetz said. “Because you won’t always be available, help them research alternative forms of transportation – family, friends, church volunteers, public transportation, or assistance through a senior services organization. Another option is to hire a professional caregiver. At HCAN, our caregivers provide transportation services – driving our clients to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store or even to meet friends for lunch.”
To learn how HCAN’s specially trained caregivers can help your loved one remain active and independent, visit hcanthrive.com.