Episode 014: Day 5 – Should Mom or Dad Be Driving?

Episode Description:

Host Zack Demopoulos launches his 30 day preparation plan to care for an aging adult.  In Day 5, he talks about what some of the signs are that Mom or Dad should not be driving anymore and how to take the keys away.

Show Notes:

Day 5:  Should Mom or Dad Be Driving?

Have you ever noticed there are unexplained dents in the paint of your parent’s car, mailbox, garage, or other objects/vehicles at the home?  Do they stop for no apparent reason?  When making turns, especially left ones, do they have difficulty navigating them?  Do you avoid riding with your parent if they are driving at all cost? If you said yes to any of these, it might be a warning sign that their driving may need to be limited or they should not be driving at all. We’ll discuss this topic on Day Five of the 30 Day Preparation Plan To Care For An Aging Parent.

Welcome to the Raising ‘Rents Podcast.  This show is sponsored by ComForCare, a national home care provider that will help you live your best life possible.  Day Five of the 30 Day Preparation Plan is the next step in preparing a plan to become the best caregiver possible. Keep in mind as we go throughout this process that our primary goal for family caregiving, regardless of circumstances, is to provide a loved one with a comfortable, caring environment in which to grow old.

Before I begin, I want to let you know that I referenced AARP, the Alzheimers Association and an article  “Driving Dilemmas: Risk vs. Independence” by Kristine Dwyer  May 16, 2017 in a blog Today’s Caregiver to share some of these tips with you.

There are other considerations when evaluating whether or not someone’s driving should be limited or ceased.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Has a friend or family member expressed concern your parent’s driving?
  • Has the doctor advised limiting driving for health reasons?
  • Have they ever been pulled over by a police officer and warned about poor driving behavior or had near misses or accidents?
  • Do they get lost sometimes on familiar routes?
  • Do you notice that their concentration wanders when they drive
  • Do other drivers honk frequently when they are behind the wheel?
  • Does your loved one complain that cars or people walking seem to appear out of nowhere?
  • Does your loved one have trouble moving their foot between the gas and brake pedals, or do they confuse the two?\

These signs may be gradual so it is really important to monitor them as they show up.  As you know, it’s not just about their safety, but the safety of others as well.  Sometimes an aging adult may come up with it on their own about not driving at night because they can’t see very well or may ask someone to accompany them while they drive to the doctor.  While this is great that they brought this up on their own, these should be considered as warning signs too.

The Alzheimers Association has a list of warning signs that I have listed in the show notes that you can find on our website www.raisingrents.com.  A few examples that jump out to me are:

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Hitting curbs
  • Using poor lane control
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Returning from a routine drive later than usual
  • Forgetting the destination you are driving to during the trip

So you know, The Alzheimer’s Association’s position on driving and dementia supports a state licensing procedure that allows for added reporting by key individuals coupled with a fair, knowledgeable, medical review process.  Each state is different on how they manage this.  Some states require drivers to retest after they reach a certain age or have more frequent eye examinations. Others may require a physician’s letter stating they are physically fit. Some states have no regulation on this at all.

So, if you determine that you need to limit or take the keys away from a parent, what is the best way to have that conversation?  You must have an honest conversation with them that is for sure.  But keep in mind that they may be defensive about it.  They very well may feel that their independence and livelihood is being taken away, that they are losing control and be looked at as if they are incompetent.  If necessary, you can get a physician involved and have them join the conversation.  A doctor may have some specifics as to why they should not be driving anymore, or can discuss some corrections that might be needed if they do want to drive, for example, your parent has cataracts and perhaps after their removal they may be able to drive again.  Doctors also have access to evaluation tools and can make referrals to driver evaluation programs.

If you’re going to have the conversation about ceasing all driving, be sure to have researched alternative transportation options that you can share with them.  This might help with the feeling of losing freedom.  There are many possibilities such as paying for private or public transportation from the proceeds of selling the car, having a schedule where family and friends will help driving, there could be a neighborhood carpool or vanpool service, and there may be transportation provided by places like doctors, senior centers, recreational activities, etc.  Either way keep in mind that this is an emotional topic and aging adults may go along with giving up their keys but may become depressed or a feel a sense or loss.   Everything possible should be done so that they feel they can still be in charge of their lives, but just have to make some adjustments in the transportation area.

There are a couple of good resources to refer to The Hartford Insurance Corporation, for example, offers two free publications: At the Crossroads: A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and Driving  and We Need to Talk: Family Conversations with Older Drivers.

By the way, there are some things that an aging adult can do to decrease the chance of losing their driving privileges.  The CDC and Prevention makes some suggestions:

  • Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Limit driving only to daytime, low traffic, short radius, clear weather
  • Plan the safest route before driving and find well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Have eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Preplan and consider alternative sources and costs for transportation and volunteer to be a passenger

Also, it is highly recommended to have these conversations way before you get to the point that you must take the keys away.  That way, you will have had a few conversations on the subject and will not come as a complete surprise.

By the way, if you have tried everything and your parent is refusing to stop driving and they are a risk to themselves and others, then you might have to do something that would be effective—make an anonymous report to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  That is if other options did not work such as Family meetings to discuss issues and concerns, disabling or removing the car, filing down the keys, and cancelling the vehicle registration.

There are some other good resources to refer to:  AAAseniors.com and seniordrivers.org.  Here is a cool offering.  https://car-fit.org/  CarFit is an educational program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them.  The CarFit program also provides information and materials on community-specific resources that could enhance their safety as drivers, and/or increase their mobility in the community.  The Alzheimer’s Association proposes several driving assessment and evaluation options. Among them are a vision screening by an optometrist, cognitive performance testing (CPT) by an occupational therapist, motor function screening by a physical or occupational therapist, and a behind the wheel assessment by a driver rehabilitation specialist.

Keeping our nation’s roads safe while supporting and respecting older drivers is a good goal to work on today and down the road—no pun intended.

So that’s Day 5.  Join us for Day 6 as we talk about medications and how they can become problematic if not managed correctly.

Thank you for listening to the Raising ‘Rents podcast.  This was Episode 14.  If you have any questions or feedback, please go to our website www.raisingrents.com and click on the “Contact” tab.  You can also find the show notes and references to anything we talked about.  Until we talk again, remember that our parents raised us, the least we can do is help raise them. Talk to you later.

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