Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, as part of its Driver Rehabilitation Program, offers tips on safe driving for seniors, and provides guidance on how to deal with the eventuality of seniors needing to give up their driving privileges.
“Don’t wait for an accident to happen before having a conversation with a family member or friend,” advises Richard Nead, CDRS, manager of driver rehabilitation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, in a media release.
“Be aware of the warning signs—such as slowed reaction time, memory issues, vision difficulties or physical challenges, as well an increase in traffic violations or dents and scratches to the car. In addition, seek medical advice to help determine if there are any underlying conditions or age-related changes that can be managed effectively or that signal it’s time to stop driving.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident—or causing harm to others—increases with age. In 2015, per its data, drivers aged 65 and older accounted for 18% of all motor vehicle fatalities.
Kessler neuropsychologist Kelly A. Kearns, PsyD advises in the release that having to give up the keys impacts more than just an individual’s sense of independence. It can lead to isolation and depression, and place a strain on family members who not only must have this discussion with their loved one, but now may find themselves in the position of being the aged individual’s designated driver.
“This can be a very difficult and stressful time for everyone involved,” she adds.
A range of issues—including cognition, vision, physical skills, and medical conditions—may contribute to a person’s inability to drive, including skills that may decline with age or conditions that develop over time, the release continues.
“Watching for the ‘stop’ signs is the first step,” Nead shares. “It’s also important to be ready to discuss this potentially difficult issue and to have a plan in place to address how to best meet transportation needs going forward.”
Kessler Institute, in the release, advises loved ones to ride along their family member and observe his or her ability to control the vehicle, stay within the lane, drive at posted speeds, maintain a safe distance from other cars, obey traffic signals, make appropriate decisions when turning or at intersections, and park the car.
During the ride-along, look for any confusion, poor judgment or indications that he or she not focused, including getting lost, braking/accelerating for no apparent reason, or forgetting where the car is parked.
In addition, consult with a physician who can help to identify any medical issues and support the decision to continue driving or not. If driving remains an option, consider having the individual enroll in a course to brush up on road rules and defensive driving techniques, or consult with a driving rehabilitation specialist.
If it’s no longer safe to drive, be prepared to discuss the issue with the older family member.
“Anger and sadness are often associated with the loss of driving, so let the individual express his or her thoughts, acknowledge their feelings, and respond with compassion,” Kearns suggests.
Kessler further advises loved ones to explore transportation options such as community transport and senior resources, as well as Uber, Lyft, and other car services.
Finally, Kessler states that loved ones should create an “advanced directive for driving,” which designates a trusted individual to assist if the older driver is no longer able to drive safely.
“Although it may take some time,” Kearns notes in the release, “helping a family member understand the need to be safe and supporting them with alternative transportation options can help them adjust to life without driving.”
[Source(s): Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, PR Newswire]