When Should a Senior Driver Stop Driving?

How long can a senior driver safely operate an automobile? Who decides when it is time to stop driving?

Dealing with senor driving issues are challenging and difficult for families to deal with as their loved ones are aging. As older adults start to have problems with their physical and cognitive wellbeing, we have to realize that there may come a day when the safety risks drivers pose to themselves as well as others must be addressed.  Discussions have to be had about the concerns and dangers on the roads. Difficult decisions have to be made. When there is resistance from your senior loved one, there may be the need to involve the primary care physician. The physician is often trusted by the senior and may listen better to them than their own family member. When no resolution has been made and the senior continues to drive, family members have resorted to hiding mail from the Department of Motor Vehicle,  disabling the car and even hiding the car keys.

When researchers calculate crash rates per miles driven, senior drivers, especially those over 75 years old, have accident rates approaching those of teenagers. Poor vision, hearing, poor reaction time and difficulty with concentration attribute to these crashes. Dementia drivers are regarded as the most dangerous drivers on the road.

Driving Safety:

Cars and some traffic rules have changed and most of us have not taken a refresher course since we got our initial license. Taking a driving course can help one refresh one’s driving skills. These safety driving courses can accommodate age related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. They can also evaluate whether someone should be driving at all.  AARP has these “Driving Safety Courses” in a classroom setting and online. Questions can be answered about the classes, information on places and times for these classes are available. Taking a course will get you a certification and may get you a discount with your insurance company.

Medications and driving:

Driving performance can be affected by the medications you are on. Know your medications and understand the side affects they have. This is for prescription and over the counter medications. If the side affects state the medication causes drowsiness, dizziness, sleepiness and/or blurred vision, DO NOT DRIVE. Make sure you talk to your physician or pharmacist. Read the printed information on the side affects your medication has.

10 SIGNS IT’S TIME TO QUESTION DRIVING:

1)      Frequent “close calls”

2)      Getting lost – especially in familiar locations

3)      Confusing  gas and brake pedals – slow responses from one to the other

4)      Finding dents, scratches on car, posts, mail boxes, garage door etc.

5)      Having trouble seeing road signs, traffic signals, pavement markings

6)      Getting angry, experiencing road rage, coursing, getting honked at often

7)      Misjudging highway exit / entrance ramps

8)      Receiving tickets or warnings

9)      Difficulty in concentration / confusion

10)  Having difficult time with changing lanes, backing up, checking rear view mirror

Seniors state that losing their independence is the most difficult challenge they face. The ability to come and go as one pleases is something our seniors love. It keeps them from feeling that they are dependent on their loved ones. Feeling that one has no way to easily get to appointments and activities, keeps older drivers on the road longer than they should be.

Seniors state that the fear of losing their independence is a nightmare. It is true that there is a much bigger need for alternative means of transportation. Communities have and are setting up more transportation services. Calling the senior centers and social services departments in your area can give you access to these services. Access Transportation, Dial a Ride, Taxis and buses are some options that can be used.

Safety for yourself and those around you has to be your first priority. No matter how difficult it is to stop driving you must consider the warning signs.

Medication Management

As many caregivers know, the challenge of medication management for a loved one’s many prescriptions can be a daunting task. With patients having multiple illnesses, prescriptions, and dosages, it’s a major responsibility that can be stressful and incredibly time consuming.

medication management

According to a survey conducted by John Hopkins University people 65 and over make up 13% of the population but consume more than 30 percent of all medications prescribed. On average seniors take between 2 to 7 prescription medications daily.

With so much depending on the accurate administration of medications it is important for caregivers to have as much knowledge as possible about the medicine a loved one is prescribed and be health advocates for them when they visit the doctor or pharmacist.

Below Estee Bienstock RN, Executive Director of ALLPOINT Home Health, provides key items for caregivers to be aware of as they assist with or manage the medication of their loved one.

Key things to know about the medication a love one is taking

  • Brand and generic name
  • Purpose and appearance
  • Dosage and what to do if a dose is missed
  • How and when to take the medication (i.e. with water, food, on an empty stomach, etc.)
  • Side effects and what to do
  • Drug interactions with food, alcohol, other medications and over-the-counter products (including herbal products.)
  • Storage (e.g., in the refrigerator, original container only, away from sunlight, etc.)

While caring for your loved one at home

  • Read the entire prescription label.
  • Recheck the label before administrating each dose.
  • Give the medication exactly as prescribed.
  • If your loved one develops difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.
  • Throw away expired medications.
  • Ask the pharmacist to recommend a reference book or website on medications.

While you’re at the doctor’s office or pharmacy

  • Learn as much as possible about your loved one’s illness/disease.
  • Ask the doctor as many questions as you need to understand their medication.
  • Make sure that all your loved one’s doctors are aware of all the medications you are taking.
  • Fill all the prescriptions at the same pharmacy.
  • Inform the doctor or pharmacist about any problems your loved one is having with their medication, foods, herbal products, or dietary supplements.

When your loved one is a patient at a hospital 

  • Bring an updated written list of the medications the patient is taking and those they cannot tolerate.
  • Ask what each new medication is for.
  • If a medication in not administered on time; ask for the nurse.
  • Ask the nurse or pharmacist if something looks different.
  • Do not take medications brought from home (including herbal products and dietary supplements.)

More information on medication management:

Medication Management for the Elderly

Managing Your Medicines

 

SIBLING RIVALRY AND CAREGIVING – SURVIVING THE JOURNEY

No matter what the dynamics are, calling a truce among siblings when parental caregiving issues come up will benefit the entire family.

caring for elderly parents

  • 43.5 million people take care of a parent or relative.
  • 51% of those taking care of an older relative are doing this alone.
  • 85% of them have siblings.

We are not really prepared for the task of caregiving. We are living longer, but when health and cognitive issues start to decline in our loved ones, the need for family intervention becomes clear. Family dynamics are complicated, and at this time, the rivalries can erupt. The dynamics that existed as you were growing up, such as how you felt about each other, how your parents interacted with each of you and the expectations that they had of each of you, persist at that time of need.

No matter what the dynamics are, calling a truce among siblings would be beneficial for everyone. You don’t have to become best friends, but the care for a loved one has to come first. Taking a step back and considering this is vital at this time of all of your lives. Focus only on issues concerning your parents. If that is not possible, bring in a professional. A geriatric Care Manager, a family therapist, or clergy could help all of you communicate objectively and realistically. When siblings coordinate efforts to care for parents, the parents receive better care overall.

Watching a parent age and finally die is one of the hardest events in our lives. Recognize that caregiving is hard work and can be frustrating. Conflicts on issues of care, safety, transportation and living situations come up. It is important that families discuss these issues when the need is not at a crisis level. Mutual respect is extremely important. Accept that each person responds to these situations differently. Allow one another time to vent frustrations. Show compassion and it will come back to you.

As a primary caregiver, having ongoing conversations with your siblings about your parents’ needs, can bring an understanding on the decisions that are being made. Often times, there is so much resentment between brothers and sisters that no one communicates. Discussing what each sibling can bring to the table can alleviate old family roles. Don’t assume that whoever has always had the “responsible” role is the person that will have to make the sacrifice of doing everything. Discuss amongst yourselves what each one of you can do. In caring for a loved one, there are so many roles that need to be taken on. Find each other’s strengths and weaknesses and see how this benefits the overall care your parents receive. One person can be the coordinator of care, one can take on the responsibility for paying bills and administrative tasks, one may do the grocery shopping and physician appointments.  By having a list of all the tasks that now have to be taken on, each sibling can do what they do best.

Be good to yourself and be kind to each other.