By Denise S. Pott, LCSW • Assistance Home Care
At some point, all of us will likely wonder whether their parent is still safe behind the wheel. In some cases the answer to this question is obvious, such as when a parent has serious vision problems, or advanced dementia. But if your parent is simply slowing down or feeling common effects of aging such as arthritis, or perhaps becoming more forgetful, it can be difficult to determine if and when his or her driving slips from competent to hazardous to himself and others.
No one wants to rush their parents off the road. Clearly, it’s better to be safe than sorry, but don’t assume that just because your parent is over 75 he should no longer be driving. Experts agree that age alone shouldn’t be the determining factor in whether a person should give up the car keys. There are a variety of factors that should be considered. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, since doing so often means loss of independence and mobility.
On the other hand, the consequences of waiting too long to stop driving are even more frightening. So what should you do? Driving experts offer this advice: Go driving with your parent before you have reason to suspect that s/he has a driving problem, if possible. This will give you a baseline perspective on your parent’s driving abilities, so you’ll be able to identify problems when they come up.
Things to watch for:
- Does your parent remember to fasten his or her seat belt?
- Does s/he crane forward or show signs of discomfort while driving?
- Does s/he seem tense and preoccupied, or easily distracted?
- Does s/he fail to notice, road signs, traffic lights pedestrians, or other motorists?
- Does s/he often drift toward the oncoming lane or into other lanes?
- Does s/he have trouble negotiating turns?
- Is his/her reaction time slow or does s/he seem confused, hesitant or perhaps frightened in unexpected situations?
Even if your elderly parent is still driving safely, it’s a good idea to initiate an ongoing discussion about driving. Ask your parent if s/he’s had any driving problems, and how he’ll handle life without a car when the day comes. Help them find out about alternative transportation options in his area. These discussions will help your parent prepare emotionally and practically for giving up the car keys.
If you feel that your parent has shown worrisome signs when driving, one option is to enroll in a safe driving course. AARP offers safe driving classes for seniors in many communities, and they are frequently offered in the St. Louis area at minimal cost. Some of our area hospitals and rehab centers offer a complete driving safety evaluation, which may be covered by insurance. You might also consider anonymously submitting Form 4319 to the Department of Revenue. This lets the department know that there are concerns regarding your parent’s driving ability, and they will send them a notice that they need to be retested. As a last resort, a physician. can complete Form 1528, stating that an individual is not a safe driver. This will result in revocation of the driver’s license. For more information, or to get a copy of the forms, visit the Missouri Department of Revenue website – http://dor.mo.gov/faq/drivers/doctor.php.
If your loved one would benefit from transportation or care in the home, please consider Assistance Home Care.
In addition to helping with personal care and household chores, we can provide transportation for those who are in our care.
For more information, visit our website at www.assistanceathome.com
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