Elderly Drivers Often Don’t Know When to Say “When”
One of the hardest things aging individuals struggle with is the loss of independence. These proud people have lived by themselves for years, done everything for themselves, and don’t want to burden anyone else in any way. Unfortunately, there comes a time when elderly individuals must give up at least some of their independence in order to keep themselves (and others) safe. One key component of that late-in-life shift is knowing when to give up that coveted driver’s license. Unfortunately, new research shows that elderly drivers may have trouble determining when they can no longer operate an automobile safely by themselves.
It’s More Than Just a License
How would you feel if someone told you that it was time to give up your car keys? You would be hurt, offended, possibly even think that it was a joke, right? Your ability to operate an automobile gives you:
- Access to the outside world
- The ability to care for yourself
- A sense of pride
Many elderly drivers have been on the road for 50 or 60 years and old habits die hard. So it’s no wonder that so many arguments (and so much interpersonal friction) erupt when the topic of surrendering those car keys comes up. You can’t expect your aging loved one to take that suggestion any better than you would.
But, unless there’s an obvious reason for revoking your loved one’s license (such as a medical condition or a history of accidents), that decision is often legally up to them (whether you like it or not).
However, new research published in Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders suggests they may not be the best judge. Indeed, a multinational group of researchers discovered a significant proportion of elderly drivers regularly overestimate their own ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Strangely enough, drivers who lived in rural areas were more likely to inflate their abilities (thus create potential life-threatening consequences) than those who regularly drive in urban areas.
While the study really focused on the difference between rural and urban drivers (and the reasons for that difference) the real takeaway is that it’s often up to an elderly individual’s loved ones to step in and confront that individual with the truth.
How Do You Know When It’s Time?
The AARP has created a sort of “checklist” to help family caregivers understand when their elderly drivers may be having trouble behind the wheel. The organization says that you should look for:
- Delayed response times
- Inability to stay focused behind the wheel
- Decreased confidence (which may manifest in your loved one driving less)
- Damage to their vehicle, mailboxes, trash cans, or other obstacles in or around the driveway
- Driving at improper speeds
What to Do If Elderly Drivers Don’t Believe It’s Time
In order to convince an elderly driver that it’s time for them to let someone else do the driving, you may need to recruit help. Ask other family members to bring the topic up so it doesn’t seem as if it’s just coming from you. Get your loved one’s doctor in on the process. Search out resources like AARP’s “We need to Talk” Seminar or your local Area Agency on Aging for advice on how to deal with this sensitive topic.
If none of the above works, it may be time to get the Texas Department of Public Safety involved in the revocation process.
What to Do When Your Loved One Loses That License
Obviously, you can’t be where your loved one needs you all the time. That’s where the caring professionals at Second Family Home Care can help. Our professional caregivers can assist your aging loved one by driving them to doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, the grocery store and more in order to help them maintain their independence while still living in their own homes. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer. Call (972) 347-0700 today.
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