Florida is known for its large population of seniors. Many people can drive safely well into their senior years. Others, whether because of physical or mental limitations or medications they are taking, should not be behind the wheel. They may be a danger to themselves and others.
If you are a family member and/or caretaker of an older person, what signs should you look out for that it's time to find other modes of transportation? What steps should you take to help someone maintain the independence we all want for as long as possible?
If you notice that someone is driving either too quickly or too slowly, nearly avoiding accidents, getting lost or feeling nervous or frustrated while driving, it may be time to have a discussion. Talk to your loved one about where he or she needs or wants to go each week. It's best if you can have an open dialogue rather than just take away the keys. Maybe your loved one would just as soon give up driving if it's becoming increasingly difficult and stressful.
If the person is truly a danger to him/herself or others, you may need to take away the keys. Sometimes, it's best to get the person's physician involved in that conversation. People often take the news better from a doctor than a family member.
Before you take steps to end someone's driving, it's best to present them with alternate transportation. Find out what kind of rideshare services are available in your area for seniors or disabled people. There may be free or low-cost shuttle and other transportation services that take people to doctor's appointments, senior centers, shopping malls and other local destinations. If these are not available, check into carpooling with other caregivers or neighbors. Taxis and Ubers are other options.
If your loved one is still able to safely do some driving, ensure that the car is maintained properly and regularly serviced. You may want to try to limit the person's driving to a particular radius or daylight hours only.
Some people are happy to forgo the expense and stress of driving as they get older, while others hang on to their ability to drive because it represents independence. It's always best to work with them to help ensure their safety rather than giving ultimatums. The most important thing, however, is to prevent a tragedy, no matter what it takes.
Source: WebMD, "How Caregivers Can Keep Elderly Drivers Safe" accessed Mar. 25, 2015