Driving a car gives people a sense of control, freedom, and access to opportunities. As people grow older, the privileges associated with driving remain important. Aging, however, can be a detriment to driving. Doctors are aware of this fact yet hesitate to discuss driving with older patients.
Why do seniors have a higher risk for vehicle collisions?
Older drivers involved in vehicle accidents and fatalities make headlines, such as an 80-year-old man who careened down the wrong lane of a highway and killed a family of four; or, an 86-year-old southern California man who crashed into a farmer’s market and ended the lives of 10 people.
For every mile driven, seniors over the age of 75 have a higher risk of being involved in a car accident. The likelihood of vehicle collisions that result in fatalities increases only slightly after age 65 but spikes dramatically after age 80.
Driving skills deteriorate with age. More elderly individuals receive citations for traffic violations than other age groups. Statistics show that seniors are cited for such violations as failing to yield, running red lights or stop signs and making improper left turns.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect the brain’s ability to think. A decline in cognitive function is a serious issue when driving a vehicle. Plus, older age groups are more likely to take prescription medications, which can cause drowsiness and adversely affect driving performance.
Safely operating a vehicle requires the ability to see clearly, hear well, and engage in quick reflexes in order to circumvent unexpected obstacles. Many seniors, however, suffer from poor vision and hearing, and their reflexes are slow. As physical abilities decline, driving becomes a concern.
How does driving impact seniors’ independence?
Driving is a privilege that must be earned. As seniors age and their driving abilities are questioned, they may understandably feel a sense of loss. Elderly individuals might blame others, attempt to justify their actions, and ultimately feel depressed at the thought of not driving again.
After all, driving provides seniors with a sense of autonomy and control in their lives. Older drivers have ample opportunities to shop, visit friends, participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer, and even work when they have unimpeded access to a vehicle.
However, operating a car should be done according to one’s ability. If public safety and the driver’s personal safety are potentially jeopardized when a senior gets behind the wheel, it’s time to take a serious look at whether or not it is safe for the individual to continue to drive.
Why are doctors reluctant to discuss senior driving?
Physicians are more likely to be aware of an aging patient’s cognitive and physical levels of functioning and the effect any impairments could have on driving. Families and seniors place full confidence in doctors, knowing these professionals have a responsibility to ensure public safety.
Despite the responsibility, medical doctors are reluctant to discuss an elderly patient’s ability to drive. Currently, clinical tests to accurately assess a senior’s driving ability do not exist. Doctors are unable to determine driving fitness because they cannot observe a patient as he drives.
Doctor’s appointment slots are limited, leaving medical professionals with little time to fully discuss driving abilities. Furthermore, many physicians are not trained to initiate conversations about senior driving. A lack of information about senior transportation alternatives is also an obstacle.
Medical professionals are unable to make a final decision about senior driving based only on office visits or physical examinations. Doctors must rely on observational reports from family members about a senior’s health issues and behaviors behind the wheel of a vehicle.
The shared input and advice from both physicians and family members, however, are enough to convince an elderly person to retire from or limit driving. Doctors are also in the position to address medical issues and help senior patients maintain mobility through counseling.
One of the most important questions to ask when evaluating a senior’s ability to drive is, “Would you feel safe if the senior drives with your child as a passenger?” If the answer is no, it is time to compassionately broach the topic of limiting or retiring from driving.
Does home care include senior transportation?
Discontinuing driving is a hardship for seniors. Despite the seemingly abrupt standstill to pursuing life activities, older people who no longer drive have local resources upon which to depend. Besides public transportation, seniors have the option to seek out home care for transportation assistance.
Professional caregivers may be hired to provide elder care recipients with transportation to a variety of destinations. Countless seniors today rely on caregivers to drive them to local senior centers, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and to help complete any errands.
Home care agencies, like Assisting Hands Home Care, understand the daily needs of elder care recipients and provide multiple resources to meet nonmedical care requirements. Senior transportation is just one of many care needs that our caregivers fulfill. We are trained to maximize safety during each trip.
Assisting Hands Home Care services are designed to give each senior a high quality of life. Our caregivers prevent senior isolation by providing pleasant companionship, driving care recipients to social gatherings, and stimulating their minds with conversations, puzzles and games.
Core responsibilities of caregivers on the Assisting Hands Home Care team include help with personal hygiene activities (dressing, bathing, and toileting), meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, and transfer assistance. We support seniors in all the activities of daily living.
Seniors who have not passed Florida’s vision test when they renew their license or those who feel uncomfortable driving will require help with transportation. Assisting Hands Home Care is the safest alternative to getting behind the wheel. Both seniors and their families will feel peace of mind.
Families with seniors living in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens Florida, are encouraged to consult Assisting Hands Home Care for our comprehensive eldercare services. We offer the most dependable home care in the area. Call us at (561) 781-5885 for a complimentary in-home assessment.