Working with aging seniors who are coming to the realization that they can no longer trust themselves to drive, or be trusted to be on the road can be quite interesting and depends on each individual's acceptance level. Recently had the pleasure of working with three different ladies and a gentleman who had to surrender their car keys due to aging. It made me go take a look at the tell tale signs for not driving anymore.
When it is determined that you are unable to drive yourself anymore you will need the help of a home caregiver unless, there is a family member, or dedicated friend willing to transport you to errands, doctor's appointments, or social events. It may seem like an inconvenience at first but having a reliable driver will keep you safe.
According to the NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Association almost 7,000 individuals were killed in traffic accidents in 2018 which involved drivers over the age of 65. As the population ages there are far more people on the road over the age of 65 who are not only working, but driving their grandchildren, going to events and running their errands. As you age healthier you are more capable of continuing to drive, but must also be aware of your own driving habits. You may want to take a refresher course given at your local DMV. Take a look at some safety suggestions here:
The ladies offered various stories regarding their continued driving which seemed to offer hope to themselves that they had paused their driving, and would return at some point.
One lovely lady has a really old car which she insists the caregiver must drive to get this client to and from her appointments. She and her husband owned that car and spent many years enjoying their trips and errands. She says the car rides like a dream. It has the gear shift on the steering wheel, so that is difficult getting accustomed to as you navigate.
She insisted on putting the car in the garage herself at the end of trips, because well maybe the caregiver cannot get the car into the small space easily she advised. This is all so she can continue to maintain she is still driving. She is 89 years old and had it not been for health issues certainly could have perhaps maintained her driving.
Another lady had the caregiver leave her brand new car outside of the garage in the driveway at the end of a trip to the doctor, or the beauty salon. This gives the neighbors, and herself the impression that she is still driving. She truly believes she will drive again even after totaling the previous car right in her own garage. She is aware enough not to take the car on a joy ride without speaking with one of her caring daughters.
Another lady said her beautiful car in the garage needed a part her daughters said they had ordered. That was how they got her to not take the car out. She pondered why it was taking so long, but soon seemed to move on to her next subject.
Speaking with her you get the feeling absolutely no way can she return to driving. If you care for parents or other loved ones now who are in similar situations you will know the types of excuses offered to quiet one's dream of more driving.
How about yourself though? What plans do you think would absolutely satisfy you if you had to give up your car keys due to health issues, but still felt capable of driving.
The gentleman had his keys taken because he got lost too many times coming home. He could not understand why they would not let him drive anymore. He said he had been driving for years! He was really distraught about losing his independence.
Driving can be such an independent expression and one of necessity especially if you do not live near public transportation. Apparently only about 2% of the elderly population use public transportation. A significant 80% do their own driving.
But there will come a time when the joy of driving has to be either given up voluntarily by you, or some some caring adult will say we have to take your keys. This is always a time of resentment in some and resistance in others. Some people have had the doctor tell the individual that it's time to stop driving.
Four signs you should give up those keys
There are many indicators that will surely suggest the keys need to go. Four will come to mind immediately.
First, if you are getting lost going home more than a few times and, you have not moved in a long time, then certainly it is time to rethink continuing to drive.
Second, if you have been involved in an accident recently which you know was because you had lost your attention to the road and you are having near misses, then maybe re-think more driving.
Third, mistaking the gas for the brakes more than a few times. That is what happened with the lady in her garage, which could have been a lot more serious. She was not hurt, but the car was totaled. Then she bought a brand new one to replace it which now sits in the driveway. Maybe don't replace that car with a new one? Some grandchild will be getting a great gift!
Fourth, if you are not able to see pedestrians and especially being unable to stay in your lane.
Here is a very detailed list from Agingcare.com
Watch out for yourself and your fellow drivers. Be kind and share the road.
Ruth Y. Webster