Senior Driving Safety

School’s out and that means a whole slew of new teen drivers will be on the road. While the thought of a 16-year-old behind the wheel makes me nervous, senior drivers who have not recently evaluated their driving skills can also make me run for cover.

June is National Safety Month and the National Safety Council has designated this year’s theme as "Safety: It takes all of us," and was inspired by the idea of continuous risk reduction. The Council’s emphasis this year is on putting an end to distracted driving but I think its a great time to revisit the challenges facing the mature driver.

It’s been written that “Adult children would rather talk to parents about funeral plans than about taking away the car keys.” It’s a difficult conversation—many seniors associate driving with independence (that they don’t want to relinquish.) For the adult children of driving seniors, revoking that driving privilege can mean picking up the slack and becoming chauffeur to mom or dad, at least until Google’s self-driving car becomes available.

So how do you know if it’s time to take away the keys, or are there steps to ensure the senior can hang on to those keys just a little longer?

Caregiverlist® provides our own Safe Driving Checklist. We’ve provided some basic red-flags that might mean it’s time to reexamine a senior's on-road capabilities. These include:

  • Vision: Is the senior able to pass a vision test? (Cataracts, Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration can all impact vision quality).
  • Are there any unexplained dents in the paint of the car or on the garage?
  • Does the senior allow others to ride in the car with them when they are driving?
  • Does the senior seem nervous or extra anxious when driving? Does the senior take alternate routes to avoid major highways?
  • Does the senior fail to stop at red lights or stop signs?
  • Are speed limits obeyed (Not driving too slow or too fast)?
  • Have neighbors or others who see the senior driving (anyone who also attends a regular event they may drive to) observed anything unsafe? 

Also, talk to their physician to see if any of their medications can affect their driving ability.

If the above are not at issue and your senior is feels relatively safe to drive, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor vehicles suggests some self-imposed limitations which may include driving only during daylight hours, staying home when weather conditions are poor, avoiding rush hour, and driving less.

AAA, the leader in driver safety, offers many online tools to evaluate and improve senior driving skills. They also suggest taking driver improvement courses. These can teach older drivers how to adjust for slower reflexes, weaker vision and other changes. Taking and passing a comprehensive driving improvement course can result in potential discounts on insurance premiums.

It’s important that seniors realize the risks associated with accidents. Statistics say drivers age 85 and older are injured or killed in crashes at a higher rate than any other age group. This is due primarily to increased fragility that comes with age. Older senior drivers are generally less able to withstand the forces of a crash, so they are more likely to become injured.

Effective September 30, 2010, drivers 75 years of age or older can only renew a driver's license at an DMV branch or AAA office. The operator must either pass a vision test or present a completed Vision Screening Certificate. If you need to contact your local DMV, check out Caregiverlist’s® Department of Motor Vehicles by State list.

Waze Traffic App Eases Stress of Driving: Caregiverlist Senior Care App Review

The commute to work or driving a senior client to a doctor's appointment can become stressful if you hit unexpected traffic. Senior caregivers can use the Waze app to plan their driving routes before they start the car and minimize their time spent in traffic by picking the best route as displayed on the app in real time. 

The Waze app allows drivers to type in their start and end points and receive directions in the same style as a GPS, but it also shows other users in the area on the map who are in transit and how fast they're traveling. Simply by turning the app on and entering a destination, users share information about their speed and travel time with the app. Using this data, the app determines where the heaviest traffic lies so that it can prepare an accurate estimated time of arrival and the fastest route of travel for users. As seniors must take a new driver's test in some states, once they reach a certain age, this service can be helpful as they prepare for their driving test. Caregiverlist provides a listing of state requirements for senior's driving tests.

Drivers also have the ability to report a traffic jam, an accident, a hazard or a closure at specific spots on the interactive map so caregivers can be prepared for what lies on their route and the directions can offer them an alternate route if necessary. Although the app asks drivers to report these in specific areas when they encounter them, remember to practice safe driving. Make a note of where you encountered the traffic jam or the closure and report it on the map once you arrive at your destination.

For senior caregivers, the Waze app provides an opportunity to avoid extra stress while commuting or while driving with a senior client by more effectively planning a drive before getting behind the wheel. If there's unavoidable heavy traffic, the app will predict how long travel time will be so caregivers can get on the road ten minutes earlier and eliminate stress about being late. 

 

The Waze app is available for free for Apple and Android platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo of the Week

Caregivers employed with senior care companies know the realities of caregiver stress. Caregiverlist invites all family caregivers and professional caregivers to take a moment for relaxation with our photo of the week and inspirational quote. This week's photo features mountain landscape mountain taken from airplane. Thank you for caring for our seniors and please refer your friends to apply for part-time and full-time job positions on Caregiverlist.com and visit our career center for additional career tools.

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo airplane

"Success is never final but failure can be."

Bill Parcells

Alzheimer's Alone

Seniors prefer to age at home in familiar surroundings; it's a fact. The comfort derived from familiar routines and environs can be encouraging and reassuring. Many diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel the same and choose to remain independent for as long as possible.

In March, the Alzheimer’s Association released 2012 Facts and Figures: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, and includes a Special Report on People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Who Live Alone. According to the report 800,000 or 1 in 7 of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease lives alone.

Distance caring is the result of a mobile society — family members may live too far away to give sufficient supervision. Spouses pass away and the once tight-knit family disperses. Someone with early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s may find themselves alone.

While the desire for independence remains strong, the body may have other plans. An overwhelming aspiration to stay in one’s home and remain vital in one’s community can can turn even the most stalwart person into an ostrich, hiding their head in the sand from the disease.

The population is aging and we all need to consider that this could be our fate, or the fate of someone we love. An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's or dementia. That number is expected to reach up to 16 million by 2050. But if independence and home aging is a priority, there are things we can do to help manage.

Those who live alone, either by choice or necessity find they need to adjust their expectations.

Driving Miss Daisy. Until the self-driving car is readily available, a good choice would be to drive less. and when driving, perhaps keep drives short and to well- known routes.

Note to self: leave more notes to self. This is especially important when safety is a concern. A note by the stove with a reminder to shut off burners and oven, a note by the door with a reminder to lock, a note near the medicine cabinet with gentle reminders of which meds to take and when, could help prevent disaster.

Everything in its place. Designate a spot to place keys or sunglasses. If you ever see items that have strayed, return them immediately to their home.

Also, consider an id bracelet with address and a phone number of someone who will come to your aid. No one expects to wander off, but it happens.

The Alzheimer’s Society UK also provides a helpful factsheet with more information and suggestions on living alone with dementia.

It is important to begin to plan for the escalation of care. A quality Home Care Agency will work with finding assistance for your level of need — from simple companionship and housekeeping, to medication management to possible live-in care. A Geriatric Care Manager can consult with you to help determine the health markers that might indicate you should step up the level of care.

Early detection is so important, so discuss it with your doctor. Give yourself time to plan accordingly, especially if you intend to live alone with Alzheimer's or dementia, as so many others already do.

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Google's Self-Driving Car Could Become Seniors' Chauffeur

It's a wonderful thing to see our beloved elders embrace technology. I've gifted my in-laws with a digital photo frame so they can always see their favorite family pictures. My mother Skypes with her family half a world away. And as our society ages, the gap between the population and the ease and familiarity of use with technology will narrow. Google, popular leader of all things digital, recently posted a YouTube video depicting its experimental self-driving car on the road in California.



What makes this test drive even more remarkable is the driver, Steve Mahan, who said that "95 percent of my vision is gone. I'm well past legally blind."

Google introduced the technology in 2010, hopes is now in talks with Detroit car manufacturers and car insurers in order to gauge the excitement and viability of their self-driving car project. They are looking to get the technology could be ready within the next decade. The car uses laser scanners, heat sensors and satellite navigation to "see" other vehicles. According to Auto World News, at a recent Society of Automotive Engineers conference, Google “sent out a message that an experimental project of self-driving cars for senior citizens and physically challenged can be made possible given a support from global car makers.”

Of course the implications for elderly drivers are far-reaching. This breakthrough would give untold independence to those who can no longer drive due to age or age-related diseases, such as Macular Degeneration or Parkinson’s Disease. Many more hours of development and testing are ahead, but according to Anthony Levandowski, product manager for Google's self-driving car project, the development of the self-driven car is more than cool and convenient, it has a moral imperative. He said it could eliminate a "huge chunk" of the more than 30,000 fatalities that occur in vehicle accidents every year in the U.S. "Every year we don't have this technology built, more people die."

We’ve discussed senior driving safety in previous posts and we always advocate hiring a qualified caregiver to chauffeur and run errands if mom or dad can no longer drive. And until Google’s self-driving technology is commonplace, Caregiverlist provides you with the driving laws by state many states require vision tests more frequently after a certain age and some states do require an in-person driving test.

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Home-Based Businesses for Senior Clientele

An aging population was cited as the reason that “health care was the largest contributor to employment growth in the past two years”—surpassing manufacturing jobs, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Senior home care and elder caregivers such as home health aides and Certified Nursing Aides certainly make up a bulk of those burgeoning jobs, but there are many services that would benefit the senior citizen community. For those who are especially entrepreneurial and motivated, many of these services can be established as home-based businesses.

Dual-income households are increasing, so many services for an older population will continue to be outsourced. The aging populace will provide great small business opportunities.

Consierge Services can be bundled into the category of Assisting with Daily Needs:

Personal chef services.
Prepare and deliver healthy meals. You can arrange to cook onsite or off. With training, you could learn to customize menus based on personal dietary needs.

Transporation. Drive clients to and from appointments.

Pet services. Help care for a senior’s beloved companion. Groom, transport, exercise or pet-sit.

Money management. Assist with the day-to-day tasks of paying bills, balancing checkbooks, filing medical claims and reconciling bank and credit card statements.

Special Services are not needed every day, but still provide much-needed assistance:

Downsizing and relocation services. These include but are not limited to packing and unpacking, setting up a new living space and, according to the National Association of Senior Move Managers, “to facilitate the physical and emotional aspects of relocation for older adults.”

Personal Trainer. The baby-boomer generation knows that the key to longevity is in part fitness. As a personal trainer, you can visit a client’s home, bypassing the need for any kind of studio. The National Federation of Professional Trainers is a good place to start to get information on certification. By that same token, massage therapy and yoga targeted especially to seniors are growing services.

In-Home Caregiver. As always, Caregiverlist is here to help you on your way to a rewarding career in home health care. Find answers to your home care questions in our Career Center.

Successful home-based businesses are built on passion and if your passion is helping a growing senior population, your choices are expanding. The Administration on Aging’s statistics show that the +65 segment of society is growing and this makes it an important future consumer sector.

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Senior Safety: When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

The elderly driver who recently struck Reese Witherspoon with her car will not face criminal charges, but police have ordered her to retake her driver's test to see if she shows signs of diminished driving capabilities.

The 84-year-old Santa Monica resident will most likely need to take a written test, have an eye and hearing examination, and submit to a practical, behind-the-wheel evaluation. She may also need to supply the Department of Motor Vehicles with a list of medication she's taking.

The discussion of revoking driving privileges for the elderly is a sensitive one. Not all elder drivers pose a risk (in fact, some studies show that mature drivers have better driving records than younger drivers,) but once the driver reaches the age of 80 and older, crash rates increase. And of course, as the population ages, it is anticipated that the number of drivers age 85 and over in 2030 will be four times greater than today.

Safety concerns should prevail, for both the senior driver and potential accident victim. And although driving means more independence and autonomy for the elder, aging may indeed affect safe driving abilities. By the same token, however, elderly driving skills vary and uniformly revoking drivers licenses based on age alone is unfair.

AAA offers a Senior Driver Portal to help measure the driving skills and needs of the elderly driver. Caregivers need to evaluate the senior driver's competence and if safety is an issue, steps need to be taken.

Guest blogger and Geriatric Care Manager Charlotte Bishop discusses  "The Talk" about giving up the car keys in her most recent blog post. She gives some solid suggestions about how best to broach this potentially awkward subject with the elders in your life.

If you still find resistance, remember that each state's DMV has its own Senior Drivers License Laws. And if your elder can no longer drive, you can certainly hire a qualified caregiver to chauffeur and run errands if you are unable.



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Use Spring Cleaning for Senior Care Needs Check

Do you think your parent or grandparent may be at a point where they need caregiving services to help them better navigate their daily living as they deal with the challenges of medical illnesses or memory loss?  Are you noticing they are not keeping up with some of their household maintenance or staying active in their interests?  And do you know where they would like to be cared for should an emergency arise - in their home by a Senior Home Care Agency or in a nursing community?

It can be difficult to start the conversation about senior care needs with a loved one.  Holidays are often the only time relatives are able to spend lengthy time with their older family members yet they are not necessarily the best time to have these conversations about life changes since holidays are often already stressful times for seniors as they are reminded of lost loved ones and the realities of growing older.

Taking the time for a spring cleaning visit can provide an opportunity to participate in a needed activity with your senior relatives while also checking up on their care needs. Parents usually are accepting of this as you are assisting with a needed task. And, while performing spring cleaning, you will have a closer look into their daily living habits to see if there are any additional care needs or medical conditions that should be checked to assist your senior loved ones to enjoy healthy aging.

Catching a senior's medical and care needs early will assist in slowing the progression of some age-related illnesses and assist in maintaining a safe environment for the senior as they age. Seniors often will not share signs of age-related illnesses because of their fears associated with dealing with the new medical conditions and other times they simply do not notice the changes because they develop slowly. Spring cleaning offers the perfect opportunity to interact with a senior and to do a health check-up on their activities of daily living.

Here are some senior spring cleaning tips and ways to incorporate checking on potential age-related diseases and conditions such as hearing loss, vision loss, weight gain, arthritis and forgetfulness as you are assisting your senior loved one with their spring cleaning.

  • Closets: Reorganize and assist with storing the out-of-season clothing and discarding the out-of-style clothing. Take a look to make sure clothing is being kept clean and well maintained.   Alert: Seniors developing vision loss, such as Macular Degeneration or memory loss, such as Alzheimer's Disease may begin to wear the same clothing over and over again and not keep up with laundry regularly.
  • Bathroom: Clean and organize the bathroom medicine cabinet and discard old or unused items. Check to see if the shower or bathtub is being used regularly and if anything is in need of repair. Check medicine cabinet and toss or remove any medications which are no longer prescribed.   Alert: Are non-skid rugs in place? Are there any new medicines or care products which would indicate new medical conditions you may not be aware of? Is it time for a grab-bar or raised toilet seat for safety? Bathrooms offer easy opportunities for falls for seniors with mobility issues which may be caused by age-related medical conditions or side-effects of medications.
  • Kitchen: Clean out the refrigerator. Are there any buried treasures with expiration dates long passed? Does it look like they are eating a nutritious diet?  Check all appliances to make sure they are functioning properly and that there have been no equipment damages due to misuse. Alert: Eating regular meals is important for good health at all ages. Consider what health conditions or medications may require special dietary needs. Check for sodium levels in prepared foods. Discuss the daily meal plans to see if additional kitchen tools might make meal preparation easier or if the senior needs help in diversifying their menu.
  • Living Room: Remove and clean curtains, vacuum and shampoo the carpet and dust and clean furniture. Are there any rugs or mats which could lend to tripping or falling more easily? Does the furniture need to be re-arranged for easier use?  Alert: Check to see if it looks like a daily routine is being maintained and notice if reading or television watching have decreased which could be signs of vision or hearing loss.
  • Bedroom: Change bed linens and check to see if bedding has been changed regularly and if they have been sleeping in the bed. Do they need new bed linens or is it time to discuss a new mattress to assist with more comfortable sleep? Alert: Seniors will sometimes begin to sleep in an easy chair or sofa instead of their bed due to a variety of conditions from depression to new physical conditions such as back, neck or leg pain or because they are becoming confused about time of day.
  • Driving: If the senior is still driving, take a ride with them to the grocery store or to run an errand to make sure they are driving safely. Check the car and garage to make sure there are no dents or damages from inappropriate driving.  Alert: Seniors who inappropriately drive risk their lives and the lives of others on the road. Learn about the senior driving laws in each state and how to find assistance if it is time to take the keys away. Office: Confirm the names and contact information for all the medical doctors and their pharmacy. Update list of medical conditions and medications. Confirm Power of Attorney for financial matters and for healthcare.

While engaged in spring cleaning, you can find a time to talk about the long-term plans for senior care by discussing what otehrs are doing and finding out their current plans for care should the need arise.  Confirm what their plan for senior care needs would be and their retirement care budget so you can be prepared in case of an emergency. Discuss long-term care insurance policy options and the financial capacity to pay for private care, as Medicare does not provide for long-term care. Usually seniors will agree to have you help with their spring cleaning and because you are spending interactive time with them, you will be more likely to notice any changes in their care needs and make necessary arrangements in order to prevent a medical emergency later.

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