Seniors and Driving: Wishing to Drive Ms. Daisy

"How do I get them to stop driving?"  This is a question I was often asked by adult children when the Senior Home Care Agency I owned started caregiving services.

And there is no easy way to go down this road.

Even when a senior knows they shouldn't be driving anymore, due to a decline in their physical or mental capabilites, it is still difficult to actually make the transition.  Ending driving advertises to the world that you can no longer do everything you could do.  That is tough.

Many age-related diseases advance slowly, such as Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.  Sometimes it is only because an accident happens that an illness is discovered.  At the same time, if these diseases can be diagnosed early, the progression can often be slowed with proper medication and physical therapy.

My own Grandma Martha has Macular Degeneration and can no longer safely see well enough to drive at night.  I think with all the other challenges of aging, it really stinks to lose your vision (lutein is the vitamin supplement recommended for macular health if you are trying to prevent this one from happening to you).

So, definitely make sure the doctor checks for Macular Degeneration if vision loss begins to decline for a senior.

Many states have tried to pass laws to help manage the challenges of driving safety for seniors.  The Federal Highway Administration reports that drivers age 70 and older experience more motor vehicle fatalities than any other driving group, with the exception of drivers under age 20.

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 at a certain age.  A few states also allow you to request a special driving test if you feel someone at any age is an unsafe driver (this is a way to get around the age discrimination issues).

And my best answer to the question of how to get Mom and Dad to stop driving is to say it is a luxury to have someone else drive you around - that is what the movie stars and CEO's have - a car and driver. And now they have earned the right to have this same luxury.

I would prefer a car and driver over a luxury vehicle right now, if I had that option, but in the meantime, a taxi cab does just fine! , ,

Comments (6) -

  • This is a very troubling situation in our family.  My husband's mother has macular degeneration and cannot even see the big E on the eye chart with one eye. At age 92, when I took her to the driver's liscense office they gave her a 3 year liscense!  Even though she only drives in the daytime, I am concerned that she might hit someone else who has small children aboard. Since she lives in the country, she does not want to depend on others to take her places.  Surely state lawmakers should make it mandatory for anyone over 90 to pass a driving test every year and not allow people who have less than 20/40 vision to drive!
  • My father also had macular degeneration. It killed him (literally) to give up his Wisconsin fishing cottage when he could no longer drive there. Besides being ecologically progressive, this country needs to invest in high-speed rails as a travel option. Maybe it's something the AARP lobby can get behind!
  • I agree that most Seniors probably feel that giving up their driver's license means that they're losing the ability to do what they want, when they want. And that loss of control can be really tough. I remember my Grandpa refusing to stop driving even after he'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor. This is definitely something families and loved ones should approach carefully with love and understanding.
  • There was a horrific accident near here a few years ago. A man in his 80's accidently floored the gas instead of the brake and killed several people at a local farmers market in Santa Monica, CA.

    I found out he used to go to one of my friend's churches. He was so devastated that he just never left the house again.

    Thankfully my own parents knew when to stop driving. It was never an issue.
  • I understand how people feel when their driving privileges become more limited than before.  At 57 I had a heart attack followed within six months by a TIA (mini-stroke,) whereupon my family announced that I would not be able to drive until further notice.  After about two years without a relapse I was able to reclaim my car, but I learned how it feels to lose independence, and for all I knew then, it was permanent.  It was tough.  But -- my family was right, They did not pussyfoot around the new rule, just came out with it matter-of-factly.  I'd rather have been treated with sympathetic honesty, as I was, than to have been treated like a child.
  • I found a great article on seniors driving which covers how to begin to limit their driving instead of taking their license away immediately.  It has a couple of checklists as well:

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