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Knowing when it’s time to take the keys away from aging parents

Knowing when it’s time to take the keys away from aging parents

As the elderly loved ones in our lives get older, it pains us nearly as much as it pains them to watch as they slowly lose their independence. And losing the privilege to drive is one of the most prominent and difficult-to-accept signs of aging.

Although seniors may put up a fight when the time comes to take away the keys, their safety and the safety of others is at risk. Talking to an elderly individual about why they can no longer operate a vehicle won’t be easy. But if empathy and sensitivity are employed, it can be possible.

Broaching the topic begins with understanding why an elderly loved can no longer be behind the wheel and then continues by identifying the warning signals as to when it is no longer safe to drive. ParentGiving.com offered up the following advice to know when and why that conversation should take place:

Changes That Can Adversely Affect Seniors’ Driving Ability

  • Visual decline: These include poor depth perception, narrowed peripheral vision, poor judgment of speed and poor night vision, along with increased sensitivity to bright sunlight, headlights and glare.
  • Hearing loss: Of particular concern to seniors’ driving ability is the inability to hear important warning sounds while driving.
  • Limited mobility and decreased flexibility: These both increase response time, slow pedal selection and steering control, and limit the ability to turn one’s head to look for hazards.
  • Chronic conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, heart disease or diabetes can impair seniors’ driving ability and skills, even suddenly.
  • Medications: Older people often take more medications; this, in combination or taken with alcohol, can result in risky, unpredictable and dangerous side effects and drug interactions.
  • Drowsiness: This effect on seniors’ driving ability is often due to medication side-effects or sleep difficulties that come with age, resulting in daytime tiredness and an increased tendency to doze off during the day (or while driving).
  • Dementia or brain impairment: This makes seniors’ driving more dangerous and more frustrating. It can also cause delayed reactions and confusion on the road.

Warning Signals That Say “Stay Off The Road” from the National Institute on Aging 

  • Incompetent driving at night, even if competent during the day
  • Drastically reduced peripheral vision, even if 20/20 with corrective lenses
  • Struggling to drive at high speeds even if he or she drives well locally at slow speeds
  • Erratic driving, such as abrupt lane changes, braking or acceleration, hitting curbs, missing turns or scaring pedestrians
  • Getting lost frequently, even while driving on familiar roads
  • Trouble reading street signs or navigating directions
  • Frequently startled, claiming that cars or pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere
  • At-fault accidents or more frequent near-crashes or dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs
  • Failing to use turn signals or keeping them on without changing lanes
  • Drifting into other lanes or driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Range-of-motion issues, such as failing to look over the shoulder, trouble shifting gears or confusing gas and brake pedals
  • Increased traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers

Ensuring an aging parent that they will still have access to the things that they need will help with the transition. So don’t hesitate to ask a Freedom Home Care caregiver in regard to how to make that happen. Our organization has plenty of services that can help.

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