An elderly relative recently became lost while driving a familiar route home. This brought up the discussion between family members of how to keep an elderly person safe when driving. What can a family do when the relative is still coherent enough to drive, but becoming somewhat forgetful? Should the elderly person give up driving altogether or just make adjustments? The later seems more feasible, at least as long as the person is capable of driving without endangering themselves. Here are a few pointers to help keep your loved one safe when driving in their retirement years.
1. Discuss the fact that driving should be limited to daytime hours only. Getting lost is possible for any driver, but during evening hours, staying acclimated to the environment is more difficult. A wrong turn or dim lights, might cause the elderly person to become lost.
2. Remember to have your family member always carry a cell phone for emergencies. If your relative is like mine, cell phones are next to a foreign substance and they have no cell phone service. However, even cell phones without service, can be used to dial 911 in the case of an emergency.
3. Limit driving to familiar routines and places. Sending an elderly person in search of a new store might not be a good idea. Traveling already known routes will ensure safety more than new routes. My relative is infamous for his short cuts when driving. These short cuts should be limited. New construction and changed landscapes can be confusing for the elderly driver.
4. Have your relative check medication. Some of the memory loss could be due to medications. Make sure the prescription does not have a statement concerning driving or sleepiness. A simple change in medication time may be all that is needed to ensure safer driving.
5. Avoid unnecessary noise, such as conversations and music. What once was not a problem, may no impede driving ability for an elderly driver. When driving with an older person, it might be beneficial to keep conversations to a minimum so the driver will not be distracted.
If all else fails, there are transportation options for the elderly person. If your loved one is no longer able to drive themselves,check on local transportation options in your community.Also, certain conditions may call for a transportation service, such as late night driving or a new location.
No one desires to lose his or her Independence, so approaching the subject with your loved one should include an open, respectful conversation. After all, your loved one's safety is the primary concern.