Seniors who continue to drive their vehicles love the perks that they get from driving. It allows them to stay active and updated with what’s happening around them. Driving also makes them feel they have a purpose; that they are not neglected and alone.
However, there will come a time when driving becomes too risky and dangerous for seniors. When this time comes, it won’t be easy convincing your elderly loved one to stop driving. For starters, your senior family member may think that you just do not want him to be happy or that you’re taking away his freedom. It won’t be easy, but you can try to help your elderly loved one understand why it is necessary to give up his independence on the road.
Unless your senior family member is already receiving assisted home care, he can argue if you impose a rule and stop him from driving. However, if you know the warning signs to watch out for, you will sound more confident, and your elderly loved one will understand that you are only doing what is best for him.
The Warning Signs
Here are the signs you need to watch out for:
1. Car Dents and Scratches/Car Accidents/Tickets
If there are dents and scratches on the car, these can indicate that your senior loved one has been driving erratically. While minor scratches are normal, it’s a different story if there are too many of them. If the dents are all over the place, this can be a sign that your loved one’s driving confidence has dipped.
Additionally, getting into accidents and accumulating tickets suggest that there is a sudden change in your senior family member’s driving and his general well-being.
2. Inability to Follow Normal and Simple Traffic Signals and Irritability
When an elderly driver often hesitates to follow simple traffic signals, he can be a danger to himself and the other drivers and cars around him.
If you get the chance to, accompany your loved one while he drives and try to observe and take notes about errors and misses in turning and signaling. Likewise, take note of how slow or how fast his speed is and how well he follows road and safety rules such as stopping at a red light.
His reaction time is also important. How well does he react to vehicles that emerge from a side street or cars ahead of him suddenly stopping or driving too slow? To avoid accidents, his reflexes must be in 100% condition.
Lastly, pay attention to his attitude while driving. If he gets irritated or agitated easily, you should gently ask him to stop on a side road so he won’t endanger you, himself, and everyone around him. If this happens even once, it’s time for your senior loved one to stop driving.
3. Loses His Way in a Familiar Place/Cannot Find Familiar Places
If your elderly loved one loses his way while driving to a familiar place or cannot find his way to places he regularly goes/drives to, this is not a good sign. If he is in the best health and condition, he won’t have problems remembering directions, especially to familiar places.
4. Gets Confused When Looking for the Gas Pedal and Brake
Only those who do not know how to drive will have difficulty pointing out which one is the gas pedal and where the brake is. If your senior loved one has trouble identifying one from the other, this does not mean he doesn’t know how to drive. This means his driving and thinking capabilities are not like how they used to be, which can be dangerous.
Ensure that your senior loved one has someone with him when he is driving. Better yet, talk to him and gently explain why he has to stop driving and traveling alone.
5. A History of Issues and Deteriorating or Impaired Eyesight and Hearing
It is important to stay updated with your senior loved one’s general health status. Even if he is physically active and mentally sharp, if he has issues such as muscle pain, neck pain or stiffness, loss of arm strength, and leg pain, driving will be difficult.
Deteriorating eyesight and hearing will also be a problem because driving requires eyes and ears to be in excellent condition. Drivers need to see and hear clearly; otherwise, how will they know that the road ahead turns to the right or that someone is honking behind them?
Ensure that your senior loved one has regular visits and check-ups with his doctor, along with regular eye and ear exams.
Knowing the signs to watch out for is a big help in determining when your elderly loved one needs to stop driving. It will also help if you can talk to your loved one’s doctor so he can perform a professional test to find out if your senior family member is still safe and fit to drive. Find time to talk to your loved one, and explain to him why driving can be dangerous for someone in his condition.
About the Author
Melissa Andrews is the Content Marketing Strategist for Paradise Living Centers, an assisted living center for seniors with locations in Paradise Valley and Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and going on hiking trips with her siblings and cousins.