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4 Suggestions to Ease Driving Transitions for Seniors

inset-4 Suggestions to Ease

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April 28, 2016

So you have your suspicions that an older loved one may no longer be safe behind the wheel. Perhaps a senior is starting to have his or her own qualms about driving as well.

Developing a process to assess your older loved one’s driving abilities, communicating your concerns, and, if determined necessary, planning ways to transition your older loved one from driving could help take some of the emotions out of this potentially controversial and contentious situation. The best part of an objective process is that you and your loved one could end up on the same page.

“Driving does not equal mobility,” said Elin Schold Davis, Project Coordinator, Older Driver Initiative, American Occupational Therapy Association. “It is one mode for getting from Point A to Point B. Giving up driving is not giving up engagement in the community.”

That notion—that giving up driving is giving up independence—should be countered at any stage of the process. Here are four suggestions to help make sure transitions to alternate driving solutions go smoothly and help the senior maintain independence.

  1. Do all you can to help keep a safe driver safer. Learn more about the CarFit program. CarFit is an educational program created by the American Society on Aging and developed in collaboration with the American Automobile Association (AAA), AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association. The program is designed to help older drivers find out how well they currently fit their personal vehicle, to highlight actions they can take to improve their fit, and to promote conversations about driver safety and community mobility. A proper fit in one’s personal vehicle can greatly increase not only the driver’s safety but also the safety of others.

    Four quick examples underscore how the CarFit program works. According to CarFit:

    • Knowing how to properly adjust one’s mirrors can help to greatly minimize blind spots for drivers who may wish to change lanes.

    • Good foot positioning on the gas and brake pedals is important. If the driver is reaching with his or her toes to press on the pedals, it can cause fatigue in one’s leg and slowed reaction times.

    • Drivers run a risk of serious injury if they are sitting closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel.

    • Seat belt usage is among the most important habits for older adults to practice. If a senior is hesitant to wear a seat belt because of discomfort at the neck or the fact it is too hard to reach, you can explore solutions at CarFit and discuss concerns with an occupational therapist.

  2. Get the facts. Any decisions about giving up driving should be based on data. Seniors have rights and deserve to have more than just opinions or suspicions influencing whether they can continue to drive or not. That’s where evaluations are helpful. Here are some ways to get the facts:

    • Encourage your older loved one to get a physical exam. Perhaps an updated eye prescription or the removal of cataracts is all that’s needed to regain full driving ability.

    • Encourage a senior to take a driving self-assessment, such as one available through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

    • Encourage your older loved one to undergo a comprehensive driving evaluation by an occupational therapist in his or her area.

    • Check local and state regulations for requirements for older drivers, such as more frequent vision checks.

  3. Listen and communicate. Listen closely to the senior’s fears and apprehensions about giving up driving. You’ll need to understand these concerns to be able to develop a plan with which he or she feels comfortable. Start a pro and con list of some of the options being discussed. For instance, a pro of giving up driving would be money savings in auto insurance, gasoline and car maintenance.

  4. Create a plan with plenty of alternatives. When you know the root of the senior’s concerns, it will be easier to create a plan that meets the senior’s needs. For example, if a senior is worried about isolation, look into public transportation options or consider friends who might be willing to drive in exchange for a free lunch once in a while. According to a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, surveyed seniors reportedly are most often driving to go shopping, whether for groceries or other things, and to visit friends and relatives. If it’s necessities, such as groceries, look for stores that offer free deliveries.

If you’re encountering push-back from a senior loved one who wants to continue driving, check out some suggested ways to help counter any resistance.

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  1. June 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Posted by Barbara Handy

    Thanks

    Reply

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