A variety of factors can influence driving safety. The main three categories of factors that can influence an older adult’s ability to drive are physical health conditions, memory and judgement changes, and medications.
Look out for these physical changes:
Health professionals can identify and help address these issues. An audiologist can assess hearing, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can assess vision, and primary care physicians or physical therapists can assess strength and flexibility.
It is not uncommon for older adults to experience occasional lapses in memory or judgement. However, when an older adult is frequently confused or begins to have trouble remembering directions or the rules of driving, this can be a sign that driving is no longer safe. First and foremost, it is important for older adults to get enough sleep, remain physically active, and eat a well rounded diet, as not practicing these healthy habits can lead to drowsiness and problems concentrating.
If an older adult is medically diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they will need to stop driving eventually. It is important to discuss driving retirement early and make a plan for transportation alternatives. Transportation alternatives include public transportation, community volunteer programs, and rideshare options.
The majority of older adults take at least 5 medications each day. Some medications can have side effects such as drowsiness, blurred vision, and problems concentrating. These side effects can make driving unsafe. Consult a pharmacist or physician for a review of all current medications. Medications that may have these side effects include:
If it becomes necessary for an older adult to turn in their keys or license, caregivers can follow a few tips to make the transition a little easier. First, caregivers should always make sure to clearly explain to the older adult their safety concerns, bringing up specific incidents that were cause for concern and explaining the danger that could result from repeated incidents. It can also be helpful to involve trusted individuals or professionals with expertise such as law enforcement officers or health providers. This sort of clear communication and involvement of authority can help ensure the older adult understands the seriousness of the situation. The actual transition away from driving can be made easier if transportation alternatives have already been identified. Ensuring the older adult can still get around as independently as possible and attend any stores or social events they’d like is supportive of mental and physical health. CaringWire offers a driving safety assessment to help older adults and caregivers decide if driving is still safe. Additionally, CaringWire can provide a conversation guide for talking about driving retirement and a list of local transportation alternatives.
Certain adjustments can make driving more safe and comfortable for an older adult. Examples of adjustments include:
See the entire rear window
See the left rear of the car when their head is against the driver's side window
See the right rear of the car when they lean towards the middle of the car
Trained professionals who can provide advice and assistance regarding an older adult’s driving safety include:
Individuals that work with local governments, transit systems, Area Agencies on Aging, or Disability Resource Centers can also answer questions and provide advice.
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