The "Family Conversation"
You might not know that in general, older drivers monitor themselves. Most gradually limit or stop driving when they feel that it is no longer safe. Ask yourself how many people you know who:
- Have stopped driving at night
- Don't use the interstate highway
- Only drive to familiar places
- Avoid driving during rush hour
- Don't drive in inclement weather
- Make three right turns in order to go left
These steps are good, because they show the drivers are aware of their abilities and are changing their behavior to stay safe on the road!
However, some people do not recognize declining abilities. Some do, but fear that driving less or not at all will make mean they are stuck at home and unable to get where they need and want to go.
If you, as a caregiver, reach the conclusion that you need to talk with a loved one about safe driving, there are several steps you should take, including the following:
Share. Tell your loved one what you have observed and that you are concerned about his or her safety. Expect this first conversation to be one of many. It's important that you are as constructive and supportive as possible. If you have siblings, you should talk together about how best to share your collective concerns, but you should not "gang up" on your mom or dad, because that approach won't be well received.
Go with your loved one to talk to the doctor. See if there are any changes he or she can make to the driver's medications to improve your loved one's driving abilities. After a physical examination, the doctor may recommend an occupational therapist to help your loved one build strength and flexibility.
Consider an AARP Driver Safety course. AARP has offered its Driver Safety Program for 30 years. More than 12 million people have completed the courses. Taking the no-test course is an excellent way to learn compensation techniques to address age-related changes, and how the rules of the road and car technologies have changed since your loved one started driving. He or she might even be eligible for an insurance discount after completing the course, which is offered in both in-person and online settings.
Look for a Carfit program. This no-cost program, supported by the American Automobile Association, the American Occupational Therapists Association, and AARP, conducts one-on-one consultations with drivers to evaluate how they "fit" their cars. Carfit consultants look at the height of the driver's seat, the positioning of the mirrors, and whether or not the driver reaches the pedals. They may suggest physical therapy to build strength and flexibility, or they may direct your loved one to adaptive devices that can make driving easier.