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dementia limits driving March 21, 2016

When is it time for a senior to stop driving? How to have this difficult conversation

By: Country Meadows | Uncategorized

Regardless of our age, driving a car conveys feelings of freedom and independence. So, it’s understandable that stopping driving, due to mental or physical impairment, can be a major disappointment and frustrating for senior citizens who value independent living.

That’s why discussions about limiting or stopping driving have to be approached with sensitivity and understanding. At Country Meadows Retirement Communities, we know that difficult conversations about driving as a senior can be stressful and threatening to families. But those talks are vital.

To assist those who are struggling with solutions for senior driving, we have prepared a 12-page guide, “Talking About Touchy Topics With Your Aging Parents,” at www.countrymeadows.com/parents. (It can also be used to address other issues like managing finances, getting in-home care or downsizing to a retirement home.) The guide has helpful tips and insights like:

  • 10 examples of what NOT to say to your aging parents
  • 3 ways to avoid anger and misunderstandings
  • Discussing the issue of giving up driving
  • The best time to begin sensitive discussions
  • 6 most common pitfalls for siblings trying to help their parents

In many cases, family concerns over driving arise when a senior begins to show signs of dementia. If a senior driver is exhibiting confusion, hesitancy, stress or anger while driving, those are red flags that driving should be curtailed or discontinued. For many families, this is the beginning of learning how to care for a loved one with dementia.
According to the website Caring.com, the leading website for family caregivers, “No one can safely drive as dementia progresses from the mild to moderate stage. … Erosion in judgment and other thinking skills make safe driving impossible as dementia progresses.”

Here’s a simple test: Can Mom or Dad master other multi-step tasks like following a recipe, doing laundry or playing cards? Similar thinking is required to drive a car.

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Ride with them to observe their driving, watching for slips in mental functioning and motor skills. (Caring.com has a list of specific slips.)
  • Look for other signs—damage to the car or traffic tickets.
  • Talk to their physician. They may be due for a check-up, and the doctor might observe new symptoms since the last visit.
  • Contact an organization in your area that assesses driving ability. That could be a driver rehabilitation specialist, a VA Medical Center, hospital or rehabilitation center.
  • Contact the motor vehicle division of your state transportation department. All states, including Pennsylvania and Maryland, have procedures in place, such as driving evaluations and license reviews, to address your concerns.

Throughout this trying process, be sure to show your loved one that you are concerned about his/her well-being and will help him/her resolve the issue of alternative transportation for seniors. The unknown future can be frightening, and your show of support and solidarity is crucial to a positive outcome.

If you’re interested in knowing about memory care support or dementia care at our senior retirement homes, we would be glad to tell you about our services. As a start, you might want to check out our page on “When is it time for a memory support program?”

We invite you to contact us to learn more about Country Meadows and tour any of our senior living homes. If you’re looking for a Pennsylvania or Maryland retirement community, we would be happy to introduce you to the services that Country Meadows provides to our residents. Our senior independent living communities, personal care and assisted living homes, memory support services and restorative care offer personalized senior living and a rich community life that engages the body, mind and spirit.


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