Lola was a very active and intelligent 90-year-old. She lived alone and enjoyed driving her light blue Buick. One day she got confused and turned the wrong way on a busy one-way street. She avoided an accident, but she realized her driving days were coming to an end. She had dreaded this moment for several years and often stated that “giving up driving is social suicide”. She knew that losing the ability to drive changes everything in the world of an elderly person living alone. They may become isolated, or resentful of needing to rely on others for transportation.
Should Your Loved One be Driving?
You should not hesitate to evaluate the driving safety of your aging loved ones. AAA states that the incidence of fatal accidents rise at age 70 and rise sharply after age 80. A quick google search will produce hundreds of tragic stories of elderly drivers putting their car in reverse instead of drive, or driving the wrong way in traffic, or confusing the gas and the brake pedal.
When you are concerned that your loved one should not drive, consider these options:
- Ask your elderly loved one if they have noticed any changes in their driving, such as near misses, fear of having an accident, confusion when driving in new places or after dark, etc.
- Make sure vision tests are current, and glasses are worn as prescribed.
- Schedule a driving test at the license bureau. Illinois requires drivers over 75 to renew their licenses every four years and to pass a road test with each renewal. Those above age 80 face renewal every two years, and those 87 or older are tested annually.
- The AAA has a brochure with several questions for drivers over the age of 65. Some questions to consider:
- Do intersections bother you when there is so much to watch from all directions?
- Is it difficult to merge onto a busy interstate highway?
- Do you feel slower than you used to be in reacting to dangerous driving situations?
- Have other family members or friends have expressed concern about your driving ability?
- You can download the self-assessment here
Other Transportation Options
If your loved one decides to stop driving, there are several transportation options to keep them from feeling housebound. A companion from a home health agency can provide transportation and provides other services such as meal preparation and laundry. Some senior agencies have vouchers or shuttles to provide travel to doctor’s offices and other appointments. You might organize a carpool for church or social gatherings. Private transportation services are more available with the arrival of Uber and Lyft, provided your loved one can follow certain safety protocols.
How will you know when it’s time to stop driving? If it was you, what approach would you appreciate from those who are concerned for your safety? To discuss your loved one’s driving ability and other topics to assess and brainstorm the very best care and senior life for your loved one, please schedule a call.