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When Boomers Must Take the Wheel (from Mom or Dad)

Posted Jan 10 2011 9:00am
The following is reprinted with permission from Frontline Geriatric Care Management

My company, Partners In Care, recently encountered a challenging situation. I received the following call from a client's daughter: "Dad's driving skills are getting worse. I'm afraid he's going to hurt
himself or someone else. I don't think he should be driving anymore, but he simply won't listen
to me.  Please help!"

Truth is, this is a very real issue that our clients and their families are dealing with all the time, and we try to help mediate whenever requested by the family. So, in these difficult situations, what's the rule of thumb? A major part of my business is helping seniors to remain independent, and we want them to
continue driving as long as they can do so safely. However, for many Baby Boomers,
the time may come when we must intervene with our parents' driving.

Consider the following warning signs, which may suggest that it's time for your loved one to limit (or stop) driving and hand over the keys
* feeling less comfortable and more nervous or fearful while driving
* difficulty staying in the lane of travel
* more frequent "close calls," or more frequent dents and scrapes on the car, fences and mailboxes
* trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections
* other drivers honking at them more often
* more instances when they are angry at other drivers
* friends or relatives not wanting to drive with them
* getting lost more often
* difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight
* violating signals, road signs and pavement markings
* slower response to unexpected situations
* confusing brake and gas pedals
* difficulty concentrating while driving
* difficulty checking over shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
* medical conditions or medications that may be affecting their safety while driving
* more traffic tickets or "warnings" by law enforcement recently

Often, people fail to recognize declining abilities, or they fear stopping driving will make them permanently dependent on others or reduce their social and leisure activities. Conditions such
as dementia or early Alzheimer's disease may make some drivers unable to evaluate
their driving properly.

I know from personal experience with my own Mom that this is a tricky situation, especially with aging parents. If you think that you may need to intervene with your loved one's driving, begin having conversations with the driver. As people age, they tend to look first to family members for candid advice concerning their well-being and health issues. Suggest various options, depending on the
degree of impairment. One size does not fit all, and while stopping driving may be the only
answer in some cases, stopping driving too early can cause a person's overall health to decline prematurely. Options may include
* taking a refresher course (such as the AARP Driver Safety Program)
* limiting driving to certain times of day or familiar areas
* encouraging the driver to gradually begin using other methods of transportation such as rides from family and friends, caregivers, public transportation,
or other options available.
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