We have a life-long love of the automobile. We are driving further. We are driving longer.

According to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, a growing number of older Americans are still on the road.  In 2016, there were 221.7 million drivers on our roadways.  Almost one in 5 (41.7 million) are 65 years or older.  The largest percent increase in drivers was the cohort between 75-79 years old.

Older drivers face unique challenges. Often, the reflexes are affected.  Stiff joints and weak muscles impede their reaction time.  Impaired hearing and/or vision can present a barrier to safe driving. Common medications may have side effects that make driving unsafe.  As the Alzheimer’s/Dementia journey progresses, the inability to drive safely becomes more pronounced.

When is it time to set the car keys aside? Some indicators include:

  • Multiple accidents or fender benders
  • Dents on the car’s body
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Afraid to drive at night
  • Health concerns that may impede safety
  • Annoyed by the actions of other drivers, such as speed of lane changes
  • Neighbors and friends voicing concerns

Do you see these trends in your older family and friends? It may be time to have *the talk*.  This may be a difficult conversation.  Automobiles equal independence and mobility.  Automobiles are important to our free will.  We can go where we want and when we want. How can you approach this discussion? Here are some suggestions.

  • Do not refer to person’s age. The driving skills are the topic of the conversation.
  • Acknowledge the anger and frustration that the person may be experiencing. Showing authentic positive support and understanding can mitigate the level of distress in the conversation.
  • Use “I” language. Statements such as “You are not a safe driver” set up the conversation as a confrontation. Statements such as “I am concerned about” (use specifics) set up the interaction as a dialogue.
  • Focus on honoring the older adult’s need for independence. Assure them that they can still participate in the activities they enjoy. Bring transportation options to the table.

An experienced Care Manager can provide assistance in this difficult transition.  At arrangeCARE, we know our community resources.  We can connect you to programs that can assess the older adult’s ability to drive, considering the effect that some medications can cause.  There are options for transportation to medical appointments and social events.  Outside of Uber or Lyft, there are public transportation and volunteer programs that will them where they need, and *want* to go. We are available to discuss person-centered options for the short trip and the long haul.

If you live in the Austin, Texas, area and you need help with an aging loved one who is facing a driving challenge, please reach out to us directly at 512-814-3228 or via e-mail at info@arrangeCARE.com.

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