According to a Senior Health series article by The National Institute of Health, it is suggested that driving patterns change as people age; and that older adults are keeping their driver’s license longer than they did previously.
As we age, we are all faced with adjusting our driving habits. Older drivers may adjust where or when they drive due to taking certain medications that can affect driving, as well as age-related changes noted in vision, hearing, flexibility, or overall health. With some of these noted declines, older drivers may experience increased challenges when making left hand turns, negotiating intersections, and changing lanes. Many older adults will make a decision to ‘self-limit’ by not driving at night, in bad weather, or in unfamiliar or more congested areas.
It is important for older drivers and their families to have dialogue about concerns that arise about driving. These discussions can be difficult, as families do not want to be disrespectful of the older driver or hurt their feelings. Additionally, approaching your loved one by taking away car keys can result in an older adult becoming depressed and more isolated.
As outlined in the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program from Keeping Us Safe, LLC, the following suggestions may be helpful if you are ready to have a driving conversation with a loved one:
- Do not wait until an accident occurs. Start the conversation early when you first notice any concerns related to a loved one’s driving.
- Be specific with examples regarding driving concerns. Do not deal in generalities or make negative comments such as “your driving was horrible today”.
- Discuss alternative options for transportation. No one should have to lose their independence because they have made changes in their driving habits, or moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat.
You may wish to consider scheduling a Driving Self-assessment with a “Beyond Driving with Dignity” (BDD) Professional. Elaine Wilson, LCSW of Choices in Senior Care, LLC, is a Certified BDD Professional in the Knoxville, TN area.
Written by Elaine Wilson, LCSW, Certified Beyond Driving with Dignity Professional