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What Can Family & Friends do to Help?

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Elderly driving What can family and friends do to help?
Sometimes caregivers, family, and relatives need to convince the older adult that there is a safety concern for themselves and others on the road. Be a good listener and raise the issue carefully. Think about a doctor’s checkup to review medical history and medications to see if any of these may be affecting his or her ability.
There are some specialists who can assess the person’s safety and teach defensive driving techniques. For more information contact Driver Rehabilitation Specialists at 1-800-290-2344 or visit www.aded.net.

Create A Transportation Plan
The elderly will feel better about giving up driving if they know there are other ways to get around. Help your older loved one to make a list of transportation options.

  1. Senior transportation van - (or cabs) - look in the phone book for numbers or call your local Area Agency on Aging. In Missouri, call the Division of Senior Services at 1-800-235-5503 to get the number for your local Area Agency on Aging.
  2. Neighbors, Church Volunteers, Family and Friends - make a list of phone numbers and encourage your relative to ask for rides. My Mother has developed a network of fine people who take her places.
  3. Have meals delivered - many restaurants deliver free of charge and many communities have Meals on Wheels programs.
  4. Receive medicine by mail. Mail-order plans are easy and often less expensive.
  5. Shop by catalog. In our present time, every
    thing that an elderly person could need is
    available on-line or in print.

Assure older people that family and friends will work with them to help them get around. Tell them many older drivers who have given up driving have found that they can get by OK without driving. Also point out money spent on vans, cabs, etc. would probably be less than money spent on gas, car licensing, auto insurance, and car repairs. Include social activities in the transportation plan. Let your relative know that you care for their safety and you will help them with transportation.

Suggest yearly eye and hearing exams. Poor vision, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can reduce vision or limit visual fields. Poor hearing will prevent the elderly from hearing a siren, car horn or pedestrian. Use of hearing aids and other devices should be considered.

Review medical conditions and speak to a loved one’s doctor. Certain medicines can cause drowsiness or mental confusion. Drugs prescribed for insomnia and anxiety, for example, can increase the crash risk among drivers who take them. If you suspect dementia or Alzheimer’s, have your loved one checked by a doctor. Signs of Alzheimer’s can include aggression – something that is extremely dangerous to other drivers and pedestrians. Work jointly with your loved one’s doctor to encourage them to stop driving.

Suggest a driving test and refresher course. A driver rehabilitation specialist can assess your loved one’s driving safety through an office exam and driving test. Ask your loved one’s doctor for a referral or contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (www.driver-ed.org.) Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles may also offer driving tests. It’s important that senior drivers stay proactively involved in keeping their driving skills sharp.

That’s why, in many states, insurance companies offer an auto insurance discount for mature drivers if a person meets a given age criteria and has taken an approved mature driver safety course. Courses and informative pamphlets are available from the AARP, AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“Involve your parent or loved one in the decision to adjust or stop their driving,” says Gorman. “Suggest they avoid long distance driving, night driving or expressway driving. Encourage them to leave plenty of time to get where they are going and not to drive alone.”

If you suspect that your loved one should stop driving altogether, the Insurance Information Institute has these tips to offer:

Tell your loved one you are concerned and give specific reasons. Ask if he or she shares your concerns. Provide examples of recent fender benders, getting lost or running stop signs. Don’t bring up these issues in the car. Wait until you have his or her full attention.

Create a transportation plan. It’s easier for people to give up driving if they have identified alternative ride options. Many cities offer special discounts for seniors on buses and trains, and senior centers and community service agencies often provide special transportation alternatives. Family and friends can take turns driving them where they need to go. Some families set up accounts to pay for their loved one’s transportation needs through a cab service. Remind elderly drivers that owning an auto is expensive, including the annual cost for fuel, maintenance and insurance.

Realize that your loved one may become upset or defensive. After all, driving is important for independence and self-esteem. If your loved one is unwilling to talk, don’t give up. Your continued concern and support may help him or her feel more comfortable with this topic.

If you feel strongly that your parent or family member cannot drive safely and will not stop, consider contacting the local Department of Motor Vehicles and report your concerns. Depending upon state regulations and your senior's disabilities, it may be illegal for them to continue to drive. The DMV may do nothing more than send a letter, but this might help convince your parent to stop.

Other Things to Consider:

Caregivers should also make sure that the parent or family member has adequate auto liability insurance and that coverage doesn’t lapse.

“Too often, parents have either too little insurance or may forget to make an insurance payment,” says Gorman. “Sadly, if they are involved in a serious auto accident, they could lose everything they’ve worked so hard for their entire lives.”

For more information on older drivers, visit the Insurance Information Institute’s web site at www.iii.org.

Other useful information is available on the following web sites: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at www.aaafoundation.org/home; Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services at www.aoa.dhhs.gov; American Association of Retired Persons at www.aarp.org; American Medical Association at www.ama-assn.org; The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at www.iihs.org; and the National Traffic Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

Websites of Interest:

Alzheimers Association
ADRC UPMC
Autism/Aspergers Association
National MS Society
Parkinsons Association
Twilight Wish Foundation

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