As a Geriatric Care Manager I often get asked “when should I take away the keys to my Mom or Dad’s car? The answer is, there is no clear answer as we all age differently. There are however, some factors you should consider in your decision which I have outlined below.
You should consider the following to help you decide:
- Has there been an increase in the number of fender benders?
- Are other drivers honking at you more often?
- Have you experienced a significant decline in vision or hearing?
- Do you get confused or do you have slow reaction time with pressing the gas or brake pedal?
- Do you have severe arthritis or pain to your neck, shoulders or upper extremities which prevent you from turning your head to the side?
- Do you find yourself wandering into the other lane?
- Are you forgetting the streets in your neighborhood that were once familiar?
- Are family, friends, and your doctor advising you to stop driving?
If any of the above questions sound familiar and have happened to you, then I would advise considering other options as your means of transportation. Many seniors are reluctant to relinquish their ability to drive. Driving is a complex set of operations, requiring competency in a number of hand, eye, and foot coordination movements. So before taking away the keys, consider some other testing that could correct and improve the senior’s driving abilities.
Do certain medications interfere with driving?
Seniors tend to take more medicines which can cause side effects such as dizziness, light-headedness or drowsiness. It is important to read the medicine label for side-effects. Another option is to take all your medicines to your pharmacist or doctor and ask if any of the medication you are taking will impair your driving.
Are you experiencing decreased vision?
As you age your eyesight will change. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or even some medicines will diminish your vision. Seniors often experience difficulties seeing at night, and glare from street lights, headlights, or the sun can be a real problem. It is recommended that after age 65, vision should be checked every one to two years, by an ophthalmologist. Sometimes vision problems, such as cataracts can be removed, or maybe a new pair of glasses will improve your vision.
Does diminished hearing affect safe driving?
Yes, if one is unable to hear car horns honking, or sirens, or other emergency vehicles, then you are missing the warning to pull over. It is recommended that after age 50, hearing be checked every three years. Purchase a hearing aide as needed, and don’t forget to wear it when you are driving.
Can health problems affect safe driving?
Yes, as you get older there are some conditions like Parkinson’s disease, stokes, arthritis, and chronic pain that make driving difficult. Dementias may cause you to forget how to drive safely, and affect your decision making, and reaction time. With dementia you may not even be aware that you have a driving problem. Under these circumstances, the family should take away the car keys.
How do I get around, if I can’t drive?
There are several options for driving services.
- Friends and family member can transport the senior to the various destinations, but due to their time constraints, and scheduling conflicts this may not be the best option.
- Taxi cabs or handicap transportation is another option, but the wait can be long.
The best solution would be a non-medical home care agency, like AA Care Services, where you can schedule appointment times that are convenient for you. The home care caregiver will transport you and also provide physical assistance as needed with your wheelchair, walker, or just assisting you in and out of the car. The caregiver will drop you off right at the front door, ensure you are safely seated, and then go park the car.
Some of the driving services that the caregiver can provide include:
- Transportation to the grocery store, and assist with shopping, and loading and unloading the groceries at your home.
- Transportation to medical or dental appointments and recording pertinent information that can be communicated to the family.
- Transportation to church, beauty salon, barber, for a manicure/pedicure, or to go out to eat.
When you hire a private duty or non-medical home care agency, you can have peace of mind that you will not miss appointments, and that you will arrive on time. You will not have to worry about driving in inclement weather, traffic congestion, or that you may get lost. Having a reliable driving service also allows the senior to remain living at home. Please call AA Care Services to schedule a free consultation for transportation services. We are Always Available!
Want to find out more?
National Institute on Aging
American Automobile Association
AARP Driver Safety
Department of Health & Human Services/Administration on Aging
Are You Still a Safe Driver?
Medically At-Risk Driver Center
Screening Tools for Aging Drivers in The Physician’s Office Setting
U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Better Options For Older Adults
Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.