When the Time Comes to Stop Driving
Driving is often associated with independence for a great many people, and the idea of losing the freedom that comes with being able to get around town independently can be daunting and distressing for seniors. Driving offers seniors the ability to get to their appointments, go on enjoyable outings whenever they want, visit friends and family without a great deal of fuss, and really just navigate their time without having to consult with other people about how to get where they want to go.
The range of changes that typically accompany old age leave many individuals feeling as though they are slowly losing aspects of their independence and self-sufficiency. Therefore, the notion of no longer being able to drive can come as a devastating blow. Many seniors want to continue driving for as long as possible, even if they are noticing that driving is becoming more challenging and possibly more of a risk.
Knowing When It Is Time to Give Up Driving
Family members, friends, and caregivers can face a bit of a challenge in determining when the time has come for seniors to stop driving. Then, navigating the discussions and arrangements that must follow is the next tricky step.
How Age Can Impact Driving
Many seniors, even those in the 80s and 90s, can still be very safe and capable drivers. Age alone is not necessarily a determining factor for driving ability. There are a great many other contributing factors that may come into play to make driving more dangerous for seniors and other drivers on the road.
First of all, various health conditions, whether they be mental or physical in nature, can impede driving ability, including (but not limited to):
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Anxiety Disorders
- Visual Impairment
- Hearing Impairment
Consulting healthcare professionals about any conditions that may impact driving ability is recommended when considering safety and risk factors.
Another important element to discuss with healthcare professionals is the impact various drugs can have upon seniors’ ability to drive. This may involve one medication on its own, or the interaction that takes place between various prescriptions taken in simultaneously. The side-effects of medications can often involve symptoms such as affected vision, drowsiness, mental fog, and twitches or tremors that can make driving a more dangerous activity for seniors. Making sure that you understand the impact medications have upon factors relevant to driving and safety is important for protecting both seniors and other drivers in their vicinity.
Observing Changes in Driving Behaviour
Seniors maintaining capable and consistent driving behaviours are generally not a considered much a driving risk. On the other hand, if you notice driving skills are deteriorating and changing for the worse, it is likely time to have a conversation about giving up the keys. The following are some factors that can indicate driving hazards:
- Damage to the car
- Slow reaction to changes on the road
- Seeming not to be aware of signs, pedestrians, obstacles, or cyclists
- Increase in tickets
Basically, if it becomes uncomfortable to be in the car because it seems as though the driving is putting anyone at risk, it is time to have a conversation.
Initiating a Conversation About Driving
These conversations can be challenging for everyone involved because seniors often don’t want to admit their difficulty nor give up their keys. Also, family members and friends don’t want to be the ones taking away some of the freedom that they know to be valuable to the seniors in their lives. These discussions are, however, necessary and can be made a little easier with some strategies and advanced planning.
First of all, it is important to go into a conversation about driving with realistic expectations about the outcome. Expecting that one brief conversation will be enough to convince seniors to give up their keys and stop driving all together is somewhat unrealistic. Resolving issues and concerns related to senior driving will probably take multiple discussions, a fair amount of back-and-forth, and a period of transition.
The way you approach the subject can make a big difference in how it is received. Rather than telling seniors that you have decided they need to stop driving, framing the discussion as a dialogue in which you are open and willing to hear their opinion and work to a resolution that suits everyone is a more respectful and productive approach.
Another hugely important aspect of these conversations is offering alternative solutions to the problem. Simply suggesting that seniors stop driving themselves around without providing other feasible options can increase stress, anxiety, and resistance. Come prepared with some possible resolutions in mind like public transit, carpooling, and home care providers such as Promyse Care. Home Caregivers can help seniors get from place to place while providing companionship, assistance, and support.
Reducing the Impact of Not Driving
Among the primary concerns that many seniors have about losing the ability to drive is being left out and distanced from the people and activities that are enriching in their lives. It is important to reassure seniors that you will accommodate them as much as you can, and that the fact that they aren’t driving anymore doesn’t mean that they can’t still engage in enjoyable and fulfilling activities.
- Suggest interesting and enjoyable places and activities within walking distance
- Offer rides to events and activities when possible
- Include them in events and outings with family and friends
- Accompany them on public transit to help them figure out the system and get comfortable with their options
- Provide a list of people and services they can call when they need a ride somewhere
- Let others know that they aren’t driving anymore so people know to accommodate them when possible
Losing something that feels so deeply connected to an independent lifestyle can be extremely concerning. It is important to recognize and be respectful of the emotional elements that are involved in losing the option to drive. Having appropriate conversations and encouraging seniors to step away from the wheel when the time comes is important for safety and wellbeing. Always make sure to consider how these changes impact seniors’ lives overall and how best to ease them into viable alternatives.