Posted on Feb 26, 2015
One of the first struggles that arises as loved ones age, is the loss of independence. The feeling of independence is very often associated with having the freedom to do what you want and go where you want to go. It's understandable that seniors almost always feel defensive of their freedom when the conversation comes up about their driving capabilities. It's not so much about the loss of driving privileges, but more so about the impending premonition that the remainder of their freedoms linked to driving will also disappear.
The struggle here is to convince your loved one that their driving abilities are weakening, while continuing to empower them as much as possible. Remind your senior that you're not trying to infringe on their independence, but rather take safety precautions before they hurt themselves or someone else.
Are you trying to determine whether your loved one can continue driving or not? Here are the cardinal signs that can indicate a loss of driving capabilities:
With driving, there are so many things we rely on for our brain to recall. There's a lot of automatic things that we just “know” how to do: putting on a seatbelt, starting the car, putting your foot on the brake, etc. If you find that these second-nature tasks are causing any type of difficulty for your senior, it's a warning sign. Also, if your senior has gotten lost on a route that is familiar to them, this could also be a cause for concern.
Medication Side Effects
Usually medications are prescribed to give us better quality of life when we are ill or enduring particular conditions. However, medications almost always come with side effects, and some can be accompanied by symptoms of disorientation, drowsiness and nausea. The prescription label usually warns against driving if necessary, but it doesn't hurt to check with your senior's doctor, as well.
Slow Reaction Times
As you know, driving demands your full attention and requires quick responses. If your senior is responding more slowly to changes in traffic, traffic signs, or mixing up the brakes and gas pedal, this can quickly become a dangerous situation.
Vision and Hearing Issues
Driving also requires full use of your senses. Continually monitor your senior to see if they are experiencing difficulty in judging distances, seeing things in their peripheral vision, or reading traffic signs. An inability to hear can be another danger factor as drivers need to be able to hear sirens, car horns, or even their own car engine.
Do you notice that your loved one's car has a few, new minor scratches or dents? Have you been in the car where they've had a couple near misses? Have they received citations or warnings for traffic violations? A minor incident can be dismissible, but a few of them can indicate a more serious issue.