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Senior Services: Help Keep Independent Seniors Safe and on the Road


A new scratch on the bumper or avoiding activities that require leaving home are often the first signs that families should talk with their aging parents about driving. Unfortunately, those conversations are not happening enough.

“The ability to drive gives seniors the freedom to do what they want, when they want—and we want to respect that independence,” said Kathryn McCarthy of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Fayetteville. “Proactively talking about driving with seniors allows them to take an active role in deciding when and why their driving should be reduced or eliminated, while keeping area families safe on the road.”

For many seniors, the idea of giving up driving sparks feelings of anger, anxiety and loneliness. To help families navigate these sensitive conversations about driving cessation, the Home Instead Senior Care network has launched a new public education program, Let’s Talk About DrivingSM, available at www.LetsTalkAboutDriving.com. The new program offers free resources and tips to help families build a roadmap, together with their senior loved one, for limiting or stopping driving when the time is right.

“As adults, we don’t hesitate to talk to our teenage children about driving, but when we need to address concerns with our own parents, we drop the ball,” said Elin Schold Davis, occupational therapist and project coordinator for the Older Drive Initiative of the American Occupational Therapy Association. “We know that discussing driving with aging loved ones reduces their discomfort around limiting or stopping their driving. Often, families just need to know how to start the dialogue.”

Though many seniors 70 and older are able to drive safely into their later years, it is critical for families to have a plan in place before a medical or cognitive condition makes it no longer safe for their senior loved one to get behind the wheel.

“Physical and cognitive changes, such as those caused by Alzheimer’s disease, changes in vision or medication usage, can put older adults in jeopardy on the road,” added Schold Davis. “Many drivers can continue to drive safely as they get older, but it’s important for families to work with their loved ones to create a roadmap that explores new technologies and solutions, while planning ahead. The solution may not be to stop driving completely, but could include adding senior-friendly safety features to the car or taking a safety class.”

Family caregivers can look for several potential warning signs that their senior may be losing the confidence or ability to drive, such as unexplained dents, trouble turning to see when backing up, increased agitation while driving and riding the brake.

10 Warning Signs that Seniors May be Unsafe Drivers on the Road

  • Mysterious dents. If an older adult can’t explain what happened to his or her car, further investigation is needed to understand if there’s been a change in the senior’s driving abilities.
  • Trouble turning to see when backing up. Aging may compromise mobility and impact important movements needed to drive safely.
  • Confusing the gas and brake pedals. Dementia can lead to a senior being confused about how his or her car operates.
  • Increased irritation and agitation when driving. Poor health or chronic pain can trigger increased agitation that may, in turn, lead to poor judgment on the road.
  • Bad calls on left-hand turns. Turning left can be tricky and dangerous for older drivers.
  • Parking gone awry. Difficulty parking, including parallel parking, could cause damage to an older adult’s vehicle as well as to those around it.
  • Difficulty staying within the lanes. If you’ve spotted a driver zigzagging along the road, it could be a sign that fatigue or vision problems are making it difficult to stay on course.
  • Delayed reaction and response time. Aging slows response times which may create a situation where an older adult may cause an accident or be unable to respond quickly enough to prevent a crash.
  • Driving the wrong speed. Driving too fast or too slow may be indicators that a driver’s judgment may be impaired.
  • Riding the brake. Riding the brake could be a sign that a driver no longer has confidence in his or her skills.

By: Home Instead Senior Care