For many senior adults, their automobile is their lifeline to the outside world. As they age, many times their physical and mental reflexes may slow down, making driving more dangerous for them and for others. Families may be forced to face the uncomfortable question "When is it time to take the keys away?"
A senior adult may have many wonderful things in their lives, but it doesn't negate that as they age, they may have also lost control of several other facets of their life. Their grown children may have taken charge of the finances, they may have lost a spouse to dementia or death, and they may have been forced to leave a home they lived in for years, and move into an assisted living facility or retirement community where it is safer for them to live. Facing the reality that there could be still another "loss", the loss of their independence and mobility through driving, could be a difficult pill to swallow. How does a family know whether or not it is time to deal with this issue?
First, if there has been more than one accident in a relatively short period of time, it could be a sign that it's time for them to stop driving. This could be not only for their safety, but for the safety and well being of other drivers (or pets) on or near the road. Another sign might be if their hearing or vision has drastically changed for the worse in a fairly quick period of time. This could handicap their ability to safely drive, putting their vehicle and their physical well being at risk. Finally, if they are having a greater frequency of memory problems, driving could become difficult, simply because they could easily become disoriented or lost.
So what are the best ways to address an issue like this? One of the most simple ways to confront this issue would be to have a private phone call with their physician. Many times seniors will take the respected opinion of their doctor regarding an issue like this, when they would argue and vehemently reject it if the same conversation and advice came from their grown children. Another way to address it would be to simply find more and better ways for them to accomplish the things they need to do in life WITHOUT driving. For instance, a trip to the grocery store can be replaced with online ordering and delivery of groceries. If their living arrangements allow for it, then public transportation might also be another option. Finally, for the money an individual spends on a car, gas and insurance, it might simply be a great money saving idea for them to use options like Uber or Lyft instead. Most seniors seem to open up to new ideas when it can ultimately save them some money!
If none of these options seem to put the family members at the safety and comfortable level needed, then it may be time for a family conference with the loved one. Those who know them best will be able to determine if this should be a "group" conversation, or simply a one-on-one visit with the senior and one trusted family member or friend. Be prepared to spell out the specific concerns and safety issues, as well as explain the benefits and other transportation options. This could place a greater strain on family members need to become the "designated driver" for the senior, so family and friends should be prepared to help out as needed for things like grocery shopping, doctor's appointments and church attendance.
This doesn't need to be a horrible event in the life of the senior, or those family members facing it Together, families can find solutions that provide safety and peace of mind. Member agencies of the OPHC have staff who are qualified and able to also provide driving assistance with all of the items listed above. By hiring one of these qualified agencies, family members need not worry about taking time off of work, or feeling overburdened with commitments to taxi their loved one around.
Click on the "About Us" tab at the top of the page, and select "Membership Directory" for the list of member agencies available to assist you!
Visiting Angels of Tulsa
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Visiting Angels of SWOKC