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# How to Help the Older Driver

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As experienced drivers grow older, changes in their vision, attention and physical abilities may cause them to drive less safely than they used to. Sometimes these changes happen so slowly that the drivers are not even aware that their driving safety is at risk. If you have questions about a loved one’s driving safety, here’s what you can do to help him or her stay safe AND mobile.
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• Added: September, 17th 2008
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• Tags: driving, senior, safety
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How to Help the Older Driver
As experienced drivers grow older, changes in
Other signs of unsafe driving include:
their vision, attention and physical abilities may
cause them to drive less safely than they used to.
• Recent near misses or fender benders
Sometimes these changes happen so slowly that
• Recent tickets for moving violations
the drivers are not even aware that their driving
safety is at risk.
calls, near misses, or the driver not seeing
If you have questions about a loved one’s driving
other vehicles
safety, here’s what you can do to help him or her
stay safe AND mobile.
• Recent increase in the car insurance premium
Riding with or following this person every once
Is your loved one a safe driver?
in a while is one way to keep track of his or her
driving. Another way is to talk to this person’s
If you have the chance, go for a ride with your
spouse or friends.
loved one. Look for the following warning signs
in his or her driving:
If you are concerned about your loved
• Forgets to buckle up
one’s driving, what can you do?
• Does not obey stop signs or traffic lights
Talk to your loved one. Say that you are
• Fails to yield the right of way
concerned about his or her driving safety.
Does he or she share your concern?
• Drives too slowly or too quickly
• Don’t bring up your concerns in the car. It’s
• Often gets lost, even on familiar routes
dangerous to distract the driver! Wait until
you have his or her full attention.
• Stops at a green light or at the wrong time
• Explain why you are concerned. Give specific
• Doesn’t seem to notice other cars, walkers,
reasons—for example, recent fender benders,
or bike riders on the road
getting lost, or running stop signs.
• Doesn’t stay in his or her lane
• Realize that your loved one may become upset
• Is honked at or passed often
or defensive. After all, driving is important for
independence and self-esteem.
• Reacts slowly to driving situations
• If your loved one doesn’t want to talk about
• Makes poor driving decisions
driving at this time, bring it up again later.
Your continued concern and support may help
him or her feel more comfortable with this topic.
• Be a good listener. Take your loved one’s
concerns seriously.
(over)
Appendix B—Patient and Caregiver Educational Materials
207

Help make plans for transportation. When your
How to help when your loved one retires
loved one is ready to talk about his or her driving
from driving.
safety, you can work together to create plans for
future safety.
At some point, your loved one may need to stop
driving for his or her own safety and the safety
• Make a formal agreement about driving. In this
of others on the road. You and your loved one
agreement, your loved one chooses a person to
may come to this decision yourselves, or at the
tell him or her when it is no longer safe to drive.
recommendation of the doctor, driver rehabilita-
tion specialist, driving instructor, or Department
make the transition to driving retirement. You
of Motor Vehicles. When someone close to you
can find a sample agreement in At the Crossroads:
retires from driving, there are several things you
A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia &
can do to make this easier for him or her:
Driving. Order a free copy by writing to:
At the Crossroads Booklet, The Hartford,
Create a transportation plan. It’s often easier for
200 Executive Boulevard, Southington,
people to give up driving if they have other ways
CT 06489.
a list of “tried-and-true” ride options. This list
• Help create a transportation plan (see the next
can include:
column). Your loved one may rely less on driving
if he or she has other ways to get around.
• The names and phone numbers of friends and
relatives who are willing to give rides, with the
Encourage a visit to the doctor. The doctor can
days and times they are available.
check your loved one’s medical history, list of
medicines, and current health to see if any of these
• The phone number of a local cab company.
may be affecting his or her driving safety. The
doctor can also provide treatment to help improve
• Which bus or train to take to get to a specific
driving safety.
place. Try riding with your loved one the first
time to help him or her feel more comfortable.
Encourage your loved one to take a driving test.
A driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS) can assess
• The phone number for a shuttle service. Call
your loved one’s driving safety through an office
the community center and regional transit
exam and driving test. The DRS can also teach
authority to see if they offer a door-to-door
special techniques or suggest special equipment to
shuttle service for older passengers.
help him or her drive more safely. (To find a DRS
• The names and phone numbers of volunteer
in your area, ask your doctor for a referral or
drivers. Call the community center, church,
contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation
or synagogue to see if they have a volunteer
Specialists (ADED). Contact information for
driver program.
ADED is listed on the following page.) If a DRS is
not available in your area, contact a local driving
• If you need help finding other ride options,
school or your state’s Department of Motor
contact the Area Agency on Aging. (The contact
Vehicles to see if they can do a driving test.
information is on the next page.)
If your loved one can’t go shopping, help him
or her shop from home.
Arrange for medicines
and groceries to be delivered. Explore on-line
ordering or subscribe to catalogs and “go
shopping” at home. See which services make
house calls—local hairdressers or barbers may
be able to stop by for a home visit.
208
Appendix B—Patient and Caregiver Educational Materials

Encourage social activities. Visits with friends,
Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
time spent at the senior center, and volunteer work
Eldercare Locator: 1 800 677-1116
are important for one’s health and well-being.
www.aoa.gov
When creating a transportation plan, don’t forget
The local Area Agency on Aging can connect your
to include rides to social activities. It’s especially
loved one to services in the area, including ride
important for your loved one to maintain social
programs, Meals-on-Wheels, home health services,
ties and keep spirits high during this time of
and more. Call the Eldercare Locator or visit the
Web site above to find the phone number for your
loved one’s local Area Agency on Aging.
Be there for your loved one. Let your loved
one know that he or she has your support. Offer
Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists
help willingly and be a good listener. This is an
emotionally difficult time, and it’s important to
1 800 290-2344
show that you care.
Call the toll-free number or visit the Web site
to find a driver rehabilitation specialist in your
Where can I get more help?
loved one’s area.
Contact the following organizations if you need
Easter Seals
more help assessing your loved one’s driving safety
1 312 726-7200
or creating a transpotation plan.
Easter Seals’ Caregiver Transportation Toolkit
includes a video, booklet, and list of helpful
American Automobile Association (AAA)
products and resources for family caregivers and
Foundation for Traffic Safety
volunteer drivers. To order the toolkit, call the
1 800 993-7222
number above or write to: Easter Seals National
www.aaafoundation.org
Headquarters, 230 Monroe Street, Suite 1800,
Call the toll-free number or visit the Web site to
Chicago, IL 60606.
order free booklets on how to help an older driver.
National Association of Private Geriatric
American Association of Retired Persons
Care Managers (NAPGCM)
(AARP)
1 520 881-8008
55 ALIVE Driver Safety Program
www.caremanager.org
1 888 227-7669
A geriatric care manager can help older persons
www.aarp.org/drive
and their families arrange long-term care,
Visit the Web site to find safe driving tips,
including transportation services. Call the phone
information on aging and driving, and details
number or visit the Web site above to find a
about the 55 ALIVE Driver Safety Program—a
geriatric care manager in your loved one’s area.
classroom course for drivers age 50 and older.
In this course, participants review driving skills
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
and learn tips to help them drive more safely.
www.socialworkers.org
Call the toll-free number or visit the Web site
A social worker can counsel your loved one, assess
above to find a class in your loved one’s area.
social and emotional needs, and assist in locating
and coordinating transportation and community
services. To find a qualified clinical social worker
in your loved one’s area, search the NASW
Register of Clinical Social Workers. (To access
this directory on the Web site, click on ‘Resources’
at the top of the page.)
Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers
American Medical Association/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration/US Department of Transportation • June 2003
Appendix B—Patient and Caregiver Educational Materials
209

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