Taking Away the Keys

Written by Senior Helpers. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on May 02, 2012 with No Comments

Learning when to put the brakes on an elderly driver

A rash of recent, fatal car crashes with senior citizens driving has brought attention to a graying population packing our roadways. By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be 65 or older and at least 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive.

That’s why Senior Helpers, one of the largest in-home senior care companies, wants to raise awareness by giving families a Senior Helpers safe driving checklist.

“When elders can no longer drive, they may start to feel trapped and out of control of their lives,” said Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers. “We encourage families to monitor their elderly loved ones with our Senior Helpers safe driving checklist.  If they notice problems, they can hire a caregiver to drive their loved one. The caregiver is not only the driver but also an extra set of eyes and ears at doctor’s appointments or grocery store visits. Plus, caregivers are great companions who keep seniors social and active.”

Annette of Huntsville, Ala. hired a caregiver after her 78-year-old mother tried to drive herself to the doctor and got lost in the parking lot.

“My mother is a very independent woman but she’s not as mentally sharp as she used to be. It took her getting lost for me to realize that we needed to hire someone to help drive her around,” said Annette. “It’s hard for me to take off work to take her to doctor’s appointments but I didn’t feel comfortable telling her she couldn’t drive anymore. Instead, I hired a caregiver to drive her around, five days a week, so she could still feel socially independent. Not only do I have a peace of mind, but my mother really enjoys their company.”

If your elderly loved one insists on driving follow this:

The Senior Helpers driving checklist

  • Check medications – They can impair driving by making seniors drowsier or more distracted than usual. Recent studies show the average person over the age of 65 takes between two and seven medications a day. Seniors should avoid driving for a few days once they begin a new medication so they know how the drug affects them. Be sure they consult their physician and pharmacist before starting a new medication to see if it will affect their ability to drive.
  • Have eyes checked – Eyes change with age.  Seniors’ peripheral vision narrows, they are less sensitive to light and their eyes lose the ability to focus quickly. Research shows 85 percent of driving is visual and 15 percent is skill. A 60-year-old driver requires 10 times as much light to see as a 19-year-old.
  • Be aware of sleep issues – 37 million older Americans suffer from frequent sleep problems.  The drowsier behind the wheel, the slower the reflexes
  • Reflex and awareness – This can be especially risky if getting behind the wheel of a car.  Statistics reveal that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections.
  • Check vehicle for signs of damage when the senior is not with you – This can be a good indicator about their ability to drive.

“Driving tests can miss the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s that affect judgment, understanding and memory which can cause accidents on the road,” said Ross. “If it’s time to take the keys away, adult children should reassure their elderly parents they can still see friends and be involved in activities even if they can’t drive. If you hire a caregiver as a driver, it can ease some of the tension when you take the keys away from mom or dad.”

Consider the problem with the recent wave of car crashes involving elderly drivers:

  1. New Bedford, Mass. (March) – An 89-year-old man, who hadn’t renewed his license since 1987, is charged in connection with hitting and killing a 68-year-old woman who was crossing a downtown street.
  2. Los Angeles, Calif. (March) – An 81-year-old woman accidentally hits the gas pedal, slamming into a car, killing the driver and a pedestrian.
  3. Toledo, Ohio (March) – A 69-year-old woman kills three college students, herself and seriously injures two others after driving the wrong way on an interstate.
  4. Northern California (March) – An 85-year-old Redding man crashes and dies when his car hits a tree.

Sources: Smart Motorist, American Automobile Association (AAA), National Safety Council, the Christian Post, CBS Boston, CBS Los Angeles

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About Senior Helpers


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle.  Senior Helpers connects professional caregivers with seniors who wish to live at home as opposed to a nursing or assisted living facility. The company has nearly 300 franchises in 40 states and one Canadian province offering a wide range of personal and companion care services to assist seniors living independently with a strong focus on quality of life for the client and peace of mind for their families. For more information, visit www.seniorhelpers.com.

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