Driving Encourages Senior Independence
For people of all ages, driving is an incredibly important component of our independence, but as we grow older, it can become more difficult due to age-related physical or cognitive limitations. There are many factors that ultimately influence a senior’s driving ability, from medical conditions such as stiffening joints to eyesight changes, and even prescribed medications that can affect reaction time.
While the combination of physical changes along with other factors can make driving dangerous for older adults, there are best practices and tips they can follow to ensure their driver safety on the road and preserve their independence. Here are some tips older drivers can start with:
Driving Safety Tips for Seniors
- Review medications carefully, paying close attention to any warnings or potential side effects – and speak with your physician about how all prescribed medications can affect driving.
- Report any stiffness or pain you encounter to your doctor, especially if it already interferes with driving abilities.
- Have a hearing test done (at least every three years once you reach age 50), and determine if hearing loss has occurred and if a hearing aid is necessary.
- Schedule a check-up with your eye doctor at least once a year, and determine the best solution for eyesight improvement.
- Ask a rehabilitation specialist or occupational therapist to evaluate your driving, who will help in advising of what actions to take next.
General Senior Driving Tips
- Don’t drive without proper aids such as eyeglasses, contacts, hearing aids.
- Keep the car quiet and free from distractions so that you can hear horns from other vehicles, emergency sirens, or problems from your own vehicle.
- Always practice safe driving habits such as properly wearing your seat belt and avoid using a cell phone when in a motor vehicle.
- Maintain a fair amount of distance between you and the vehicles before you and next to you.
- When possible, avoid driving in rush-hour traffic or in inclement weather.
Additionally, look into the CarFit program for senior drivers - which is sponsored by AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. The CarFit program provides a 12-point check to ensure a motor vehicle’s interior features are adjusted to maximize the comfort and safety for a senior driver. For instance, the position of the steering wheel can be changed to improve the line of sight, or mirrors can be tweaked for better visibility. AAA also offers an online defensive driving course for seniors.
Having the Discussion About Safe Driving With Seniors
Encourage your loved one to follow the traffic safety tips above, but also acknowledge the warning signs and understand that there will come a time when your family member may no longer be a safe driver. If there have been minor or major accidents, complaints from other drivers, expressed anxiety regarding driving, or recommendations from a physician, it may be time to discuss his or her driving skills and putting the driver's license down.
It's important to remember that when discussing any sensitive subject with your senior family member, you need to be prepared to face some initial opposition and negative emotions. Practice good listening and don’t become defensive, but also enforce your position objectively. Focus on your loved one’s driving ability, without directly mentioning age, and reinforce that the overall goal is to preserve their safety – and the safety of others on the road. Also, be sure that your loved one understands that there are other transportation options available such as public transportation and home care services and that you are willing to work to find a solution.
Comfort Keepers of Lorain County Can Help
The compassionate, professional team at Comfort Keepers of Lorain County recognizes just how important a driver's license is to your senior loved one. Our caregivers are available to provide safe, dependable transportation services to take your family member wherever they wish to go. Whether it’s to a friend's house for lunch, to run errands in town or the doctor’s office for a scheduled check-up, your loved one can depend on Comfort Keepers of Lorain County long after he or she has hung up the keys. Contact us today at (440) 734-1111 to learn more about our elder care options.