Is It Time to Say “Hit the Road” to Senior Driving?

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One of our greatest freedoms is having the ability to pick up and go whenever and wherever we’d like, and when the time comes that driving is no longer safe for older adults, this loss of independence can be devastating. In fact, we often hear from seniors that it’s one of the most difficult transitions to accept. But how can you determine when it’s the appropriate time for your older loved one to give up the car keys – and what’s the best way to handle such a sensitive topic? The professional senior care team at Nightingale Homecare, the top Paradise Valley home care agency, has advice for both questions.

Warning Signs

There are some key red flags to watch for to help determine if your senior loved one is still safe behind the wheel – and if other drivers and pedestrians are safe as well. Take a short ride with your senior loved one driving, and take note if any of the following are observed:

  • Is the senior driving too fast or too slow?
  • Is he comfortable and confident with driving?
  • Is he staying in the correct lane without swerving or crossing over the center line?
  • Does he seem distracted or confused?
  • Is his response time delayed?
  • Are there any near-misses?
  • Does he bump the curb when backing up or making a right turn?
  • How adept is he in merging or changing lanes?
  • Are there any dents/dings on the car?

If answers to these questions raise concern, it’s time to have “the talk.” Typically, this is most effective when introduced prior to any driving concerns, to give the senior time to get used to the idea of giving up driving and to come up with a plan for meeting transportation needs when the time comes. However, if the discussion has not yet been broached and safety concerns such as those outlined above are noticed, it’s crucial to address the subject immediately.

The Talk

It’s common for older adults to balk at the idea of giving up the keys, or to defend their driving skills, placing the blame on poor weather conditions, other drivers, or any number of other influencers. It’s important to handle the matter with compassion and empathy. Imagine that the tables were turned, and how you would feel in losing the freedom to drive.

We recommend first talking with your older loved one’s physician, and if possible, raising the topic during an appointment with the doctor. This allows for the senior to hear from a trusted, professional third party, who can outline any medical concerns that may be coming into play (medication side effects, reduced vision, cognitive functioning) while preventing the senior from viewing you as the “bad guy.” Together, you can then put a plan in place to maintain freedom and independence. If it’s important for the senior to keep a weekly hair appointment on Tuesday mornings, garden club meetings on Friday afternoons, and religious services each weekend, arrange for a dependable person, or perhaps rotating volunteers, to help her continue with her schedule.

You can always call on Nightingale Homecare, the premier Paradise Valley home care agency, for senior driving assistance. We provide safe, escorted transportation in accordance with each individual’s requested schedule and destinations, allowing for ongoing independence and control. When the time comes for your senior loved one to seek an alternative to driving, call us at (602) 504-1555.