- When a Senior Should Stop Driving – alvimann on MorgueFile
The need for an older adult to stop driving may show up as a series of events. It could be minor accidents, expressions of fear on the senior’s part, or observations of family, neighbors, or friends. Sometimes the senior may limit driving to necessary trips to the store, showing an increased awareness of perceived dangers.
Why a Senior Should Stop Driving
The first and foremost reason a senior should limit or stop driving is risk to himself and others on the road. Although age is one of the risk factors, each case must be dealt with individually due to the wide variation in performance. However, the number of fatalities increases greatly as drivers age beyond 80 years old.
There is often a precipitating incident which makes it clear that a change is needed in order to maintain safety. It could be due to any of a number of causes:
- Medications can affect a senior’s reactions.
- Slower reaction time may be due to advancing age.
- Cognitive issues such as “chemo-brain” or memory-related situations may affect driving.
- Health-related issues including reduced balance, hearing, and vision.
- Loss of ability to turn the neck.
- Even depression can slow down an older person’s reactions in general.
Safety is the main reason for a senior to stop driving. When a person has reached a point in life where it’s time to stop driving, it’s not about just that person. It is about the safety of all concerned including others who could be harmed or killed.
When it is put off too long, an older adult may be involved in repeated accidents. Saying the decision was avoided in order to not hurt feelings is of little comfort to people whose lives were at risk in unnecessary accidents.
How to Take Away a Senior’s Car Keys
Depending on the situation, the caregiver – be it spouse or adult child – will seek a method which causes the least pain for all concerned. It may be helpful to seek professional help from a physician, counselor or trusted friend who is aware of recent events. This can provide needed objectivity in looking at all the information available to make the right decision.
Once a caregiver has resolved that it is time for the senior in question to stop driving, care should be given when addressing the issue with the older adult. There may be conversations which discuss risks and reflect on situations where dangers of injury were obvious. There is no doubt that the average senior citizens wishes no harm to others, and would find this possibility troubling.
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A statement like this may help: “I love you and I want you to live a long life without guilt or injury.” The reference to guilt can be explained as what could happen to passengers of other cars if they are seriously hurt or killed. If possible, gently convince the senior to make the choice not to drive. But sometimes, more assertiveness is needed on the part of the caregiver.
In that case, a spouse or caregiver may have to do the driving or make arrangements for transportation. It is vital to make every effort to not reduce the senior’s lifestyle, and worth the time invested in seeing that the usual activities of church, community, etc are still possible. Some family members have been known to make a car malfunction to avoid its being driven, but that is temporary at best, and manipulative and unfriendly at worst.
Ways to Give Some Control to Seniors Who Have Stopped Driving
If the spouse or another family member is driving, let the non-driving senior navigate without criticism. This person often has a long-lived experience in driving, and may know where to turn to avoid traffic and similar tricks to driving the usual places. The driver would do well to welcome this input, and not be offended even if the information is not needed on a particular occasion. It can provide a smoother transition to not driving, and allow the non-driving senior to still feel included in the driving process.
It can be helpful to seek counseling from the professional who recommended or agreed that it was time to stop driving. This is especially needed where memory issues are involved. Friends and family can also reinforce the decision by providing rides on a regular basis. Where possible, show dependence on the senior in another way like spending time together in his or her garden or other interests. Remind the non-driving senior of contributions to various lives over the years and continue to treat him or her as a cherished person.
Family and friends wonder what to do when it’s time for a senior to stop driving. The decision to maintain safety needs to be made before someone gets hurt. There are a number of valid reasons an older adult should stop driving, including medications and reaction time. Taking away the car keys is best done without adding undue trauma to the senior’s life.
It is worth exploring ways to give some control to seniors who stop driving. Putting kindness and careful thought into handling this touchy event makes life safer and more pleasant for all involved.