Saturday, December 29, 2007

Driving and the Elderly

Driving. Whoa, boy!

This is one explosive topic to handle. For
one thing, when someone has to give up
driving, they lose independence. Many
will fight the mere mention of it. Then,
some elders are so self-aware, they know
themselves when it's time to toss the keys!

We've all heard the horror stories of the
senseless accidents involving elderly drivers.
Pressing the accelerator, claiming they
thought it was the brake, etc.

Right in my hometown, an elderly driver
plowed into a department store front,
killing a Christmas shopper. Both families
were left totally devastated. The guilt
suffered by those who were well aware
of the limited ability of the driver have
to live with the knowledge the rest of their

The fact is that many elders are at higher
risk for driving accidents. We have to
monitor the situation.

Driving ability is affected by...

1. Hearing loss

Impaired hearing comes on gradually. A
senior may miss hearing honking, sirens
or children.

2. Vision loss

Depth perception and judging speed of
oncoming traffic are affected with age.
Night vision worsens and eyes are more
sensitive to sunlight and glare.

3. Mobility

Full range of motion is needed for operating
a motor vehicle. Flexibility decreases with
age. Chronic conditions limit mobility.

4. Medications

Side-effects increase driving risk.

5. Drowsiness

Older people sometimes don't sleep well
at night. This causes drowsiness during the
day and many doze off behind the wheel.

6. Dementia and brain impairment

Probably the cause of most accidents. Driver
becomes confused and frustrated. They have
delayed reactions or simply forget driving
mechanics. (happened to my father)

In a perfect world, drivers of all ages would
know when they should quit driving. Since
that's not the case, the caregivers have to
keep watch. Our elders may think we're
being cruel. They may hate us for a time
but it has to be done. For their benefit as
much as everyone else crossing their path.


P.S. Elder care experts speak of their
specialties here...