With winter weather rapidly approaching, unsafe road conditions become more of a reality. These road conditions affect all of us who drive, but they have a particularly significant impact on elderly drivers.
Many Americans have expressed concern about the safety of a loved one, due to the growing number of older drivers and today’s driving complexities. These decisions about driving are difficult for older Americans to make on their own.
This guide is to help bring about the conversation and assist you when the time is right to discuss the safety of your elderly relative, loved one or friend. More information is available at your state’s department of motor vehicle office or website.
What can I, as a family member or friend, do if I am concerned about the driving ability and safety of someone older who continues to drive?
First, recognize that driving is very important as it is our primary means of getting around. Second, if there are other family members or friends available, talk with them to see if they have made some of the same observations and discuss how you may be able to help the driver.
What can family members and friends do when a driver continues to drive against the advice of doctors and others?
It is best to maintain a sense of trust in your relationship, being honest and persistent. Encourage the person to make a decision to reduce or stop driving as appropriate. Be aware that people who lose the privilege of driving often feel lonely or anxious because they have fewer opportunities to be with friends or involved in activities. If the person will not listen to reason, you may want to discuss the problem with his or her doctor to find out if there are any medical issues that should be reported.
If an older driver stops driving, what alternative means are available?
Flagstaff has a tremendous bus system that provides access to a large majority of the city. The bus system also has competitive pricing with discounts for seniors (60+) as well as for disabled/Medicare recipients. Be sensitive to the older person’s feelings. Expect some emotional reactions, and do what you can to help them through this trying time.
Reaction time is one of the most crucial functions to safe driving. This slows with age, but increasing distance between other cars and objects may help some older drivers.
Good vision is essential to safe driving. An older person may notice difficulties focusing on objects and switching focus from near to far. The ability to see fine detail may diminish. Peripheral vision may also change with age. This is significant, because about 98 percent of what we see when we drive is seen first peripherally. Driving at night may become more difficult because of clarity in sight issues. As we get older, we need more light to see clearly. Approaching headlight glare may make it harder to adjust.
Some hearing loss is common among people age 65 and older. High pitched sounds — such as horns, sirens and train whistles — may become less audible long before low pitched ones do. Studies show people who have hearing difficulties are more likely to be inattentive to their surroundings. Family members and friends who suspect an older person doesn’t hear well should recommend a hearing exam and offer to go with the older person to get one.
Again, driving is a major form of independence, and your loved ones may be reluctant to relinquish that privilege. Communication of your concern for their safety and the safety of others is a safe bet for starting the conversation. Taking things slow and being genuine will often initiate progress and enable steps in the right direction.
Visiting Angels of Flagstaff is the leader in dementia and Alzheimer’s specialized care serving Flagstaff, Williams, Winslow, Payson and Show Low. For more information regarding home care and living assistance services, visit visitingangels.com/flagstaff.
You can also contact the director of the Flagstaff office, Jordan Fox, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 928-220-4100. The office is located at 718 N. Humphreys St. Ste. 201, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. FBN
By Jordan Fox