Driving and Your Aging Parent
Driving is one of the rights often associated with independence and freedom. Giving up the right due to physical or mental impairments can be very difficult for the elderly. Helping your loved one stay safe behind the wheel and knowing when it’s time to look for alternative transportation is an important aspect of family caregiving.
Common Issues Associated with Aging
- Stiffness and pain. Arthritis and other conditions that limit physical mobility can make it difficult to perform several actions associated with driving. This may include looking over their shoulders when changing lanes or pressing on the gas and brake pedals. Solutions include getting had controls for the pedals and increasing one’s strength and flexibility through regular exercise.
- Diminished senses such as seeing and hearing can make driving increasingly dangerous. Make yearly appointments with their ophthalmologist and auditory specialists to ensure their senses are operating at peak performance and are supplemented with glasses or a hearing aid if need be. Cataracts are a very common condition that arises with age. Fortunately, surgery designed to replace defective lens is highly successful. Other helpful tips are avoid driving at night and keep the radio off.
- Make a list of all medications and over-the-counter remedies your parent may be taking. Bring it to their pharmacist to ensure that they are not taking any medications that could cause driving safety issues.
- Driving rehabilitation specialists can help your parent adapt to changing reflexes and physical limitations. Your parent can often continue to drive with specific restrictions such as time of day and distance from their home.
If it is clear that it’s time for your parent to stop driving, find alternative solutions. This can help them understand that though they may no longer be able to drive safely, they will still have access to transportation and be able to remain socially active and engaged. Some solutions include:
- Many communities offer a local volunteer driving service for seniors.
- There is a national organization of volunteer drivers that may be operating in your area called Drive a Senior.
- Friends, family, neighbors and local community organizations are often more than happy to pitch in. Start a sign-up. You’ll be surprised at the support you receive.
- If you are fortunate enough to have public transportation, many provide discounted rates for seniors. If your parent is uncomfortable with the process, consider accompanying them the first few times or asking their elder care provider to ride with them until they are comfortable.
- An elder care provider can provide transportation as well as assist with the daily activities of living.
The local Area Agency on Aging and senior community centers often have an abundance of information concerning support in this area and others for seniors. Your parent may actually find that they enjoy these transportation options better than driving and the anxiety it may have invoked.