When it takes two seniors to drive one car, it may be time to give up the car keys
Susan and Fred are an active couple in their late 70s. Both still work, she as a caregiver and he as a handyman. They exercise regularly, eat healthy and enjoy ‘partying’ with family and friends. They don’t want to move into a 55+ community because ‘they don’t want to be around those old people.’ The problem is that while they don’t want to admit it, they are declining.
Susan is on some heart medications and suffers from some short-term memory loss. She can often no longer drive on her own to known places and she cannot follow directions to a location, familiar or not. Fred has to drive her to work. Fred’s macular degeneration is so severe that his ophthalmologist says that within the year he will no longer be able to clear him for driving.
It’s quite honestly frightening when they drive because it takes two. Fred knows where he is going but he cannot safely navigate through most intersections. Susan isn’t quite sure how to get to their destination, but her eyesight is better so she guides Fred through the intersections.
So how does one take the keys from their aging parents? According to Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, “Seniors as a whole are the safest age group on the road, the least likely to speed, the least likely to drink and drive, and the most likely to use seat belts.” He adds however that “medical conditions and how well those conditions are managed should determine driving fitness for an older person.”
Nelson recommends a non-confrontational approach to the driving discussion such as “Mom, if or when you can no longer drive, how do we keep you mobile, how do you get around?” Be prepared to discuss some options such as taxi, Uber or having a home care companion to provide transportation. AAA’s website www.seniordriving.aaa.com offers alternative transportation options as well as driver ability evaluations, ways to improve your driving and other helpful senior driving resources.