The first week of each December is dedicated to Older Driver Safety Awareness. It is extremely important that seniors are able to continue to play an active role within their local communities. The ability to provide their own transportation increases their self-confidence as well as physical health. In some cases this may not mean driving and finding suitable as well as dignified options of transport. It may simply mean a refresher course, rehabilitation, or simply a new pair of glasses. It is important not to degrade elders by focusing on issues. It is better to instead concentrate on resolutions which build their confidence and dignity. The AOTA provides many levels of assistance to seniors such as personalized evaluation and driver’s rehabilitation.
As most individuals grow older they began to experience deterioration of their cognitive and sensory abilities as well as their bodies. Medical science is enabling individuals to live longer and technology is allowing in home aging. Growing older does often mean at least some loss of vision and hearing: however, it does not necessarily mean loss of driving privileges. There are signs to watch for as well as preventive measures which should be considered.
Signs of Potential Driving Issues
- Unexplained dents and paint scrapes on vehicles or garages are signs of decreased driving abilities which may be due to vision loss.
- Elders that seem to be overly anxious or even grouchy before and while driving may be experiencing problems while driving.
- Some seniors may suddenly want to only drive alone which may indicate they fear making a mistake in another’s presence.
- Elders may begin to take calmer, alternate routes to avoid busy highways or only make stops on their side of the road. While this may be safer in some instances, if it is uncharacteristic, it could be a warning signal.
- Seniors may fail to halt at stop signs and traffic lights.
- Some elders may begin to accelerate above or decelerate below the posted speed limits.
There are several preventive measures that not should be taken. Some of these assurances will assist elders in retaining the ability to drive. All of them will ensure their safety as well as others on the road.
- There are three main eye diseases that dramatically impact senior driving abilities. Be sure that they receive regular eye exams and that the doctor specifically looks for indications of Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, and Cataracts.
- Ensure that elders receive regular hearing exams and, if they present with auditory issues it may be necessary to take them to an Otologist.
- One of the causes of driver disability is prescription medications. Confer with both physicians and pharmacists regularly about all medications that seniors are taking as well as their associated side effects.
- It may be prudent to allow drivers to take routes which are not busy and on clear weather days. Another safety measure is to ride with them even if it requires an excuse of picking something up from town. Never be overly instructive, critical, or scold elders for their mistakes this may exacerbate anxieties and belittle them.
Compassionate Note: The process of aging itself is difficult. Adding the loss of physical and cognitive abilities increases these difficulties. It is extremely important to speak with elders about driving issues with compassion, whether a simple trip to a physician or driving cessation is in order. Try to be understanding and never compromise elders’ dignity.
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