Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults

Elder & Driving: Still Safe to Get Behind the Wheel

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A car means freedom and independence.  We all love the feeling of driving down the road on our way anyplace for an adventure.

Unfortunately, as we age several roadblocks can pop up to force us to examine if this freedom is worth the price for not only the driver but everyone else on the road as well.

There are many causes of impaired ability to drive safely which can affect judgment, decision making, reflexes, memory or focus on the task.

  1. Dementia-any form not just Alzheimer’s disease
  2. Poor vision-glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration
  3. Motor impairment-Parkinson’s disease, muscular or neurological degenerative diseases, arthritis, weakness
  4. Impaired mental function-illness, infection, seizures, uncontrolled blood sugar
  5. Polypharmacy-use of multiple medications
  6. Impaired mental function-dehydration, brain disorders, loss of memory, stroke

There is no one disorder or reason that should automatically result in taking the keys away but rather each person should be evaluated individually.

A new screening tool to help professionals assess whether an older person is fit to drive has recently been used in Canada.

The SIMARD test (Screen for the Identification of Cognitively Impaired Medically At-Risk Drivers) developed in Alberta is a paper and pen test consisting of four tasks which takes about 5 minutes and is then scored. Depending on the score one can be identified as safe, unsafe or in need of a road test to determine safety.

Doctors in Canada are mandated to report unsafe drivers and this tool will help give older adults a fair way to show their abilities.

Your family, friends and even you worry about driving a car without incident as aging sets in.

We have all heard the news reports when an unsafe driver causes an accident and pray it won’t happen to us.

We should all ask ourselves if our individual freedom is worth the risk of another person’s well being.

As long as you are able to drive safely, stay focused, and respond appropriately, keep on driving.

When that is not the case, recognize it and ask a professional for help to determine if you are still safe.

Do you have any tips or stories to share to help others?

3 Responses to Elder & Driving: Still Safe to Get Behind the Wheel

  1. Another safety tip for elders behind the wheel:

    If you’re unsure if it’s time to take the keys away, or if your parent refuses to believe it’s in his/her best interest, an interesting option is to install SafeKey in their car.

    SafeKey is a device that is connected to the engine and will only allow the car to start if you can pass a short cognitive test on a keychain. You can set it up so that if ‘Mom’ fails the test 3 times you are notified, allowing you to call her and see how she’s feeling and ask if you can drive her anywhere. It’s a pretty neat tool!

    • Thanks Jill, that sounds like an interesting technology application to help keep seniors safe, thanks for sharing!

  2. My Nan is an absolute terror on the road these days. She just bought herself a new car and doesn’t realise how fast she is moving at times. She got done for speeding a few weeks ago and I’m worried she’ll end up having an accident some of these days!

    That sounds like a great idea Jill I’ve never heard of those.

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