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Elder Care Spotlight: When Is It Time To Stop Driving?...

According to the AARP, the average age that people stop driving is 75. We all know someone older who is still driving, and deserves to do so. We also may all know someone who should've stopped driving many years ago. This can be one of the most sensitive topics with our elderly friends and family, so it is important to approach it with compassion. We have had to have difficult conversations and even arguments over this topic with several family members over the years, so we understand the process. Every person is so different in the way they either accept this shift or deny it. One by one, each of us will need to approach the topic of our personal freedoms, safety, and what is right for us at the various stages of life. What is most important is that we are taking care of ourselves and being as safe as we can be when it comes to sharing the road with others.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that we have around 700 injuries and 20 deaths of older adults daily in motor vehicle crashes. That can all be prevented when we are honest with the elderly about what is safe and right for everyone on the road. The big signs that it's time to stop driving is when you start observing little dings, dents, or small accidents occurring more regularly. They may have problems remembering where they are, get easily distracted, or may even run stop signs, lights, or other signals on the road. They may get lost, forget where they are going, or have problems staying in their lane. Driving at night, in the rain or snow, or in the fog can become a death sentence for our elderly friends and family members. Due to age-related vision and hearing problems, as well as the inability to make sharp, quick decisions when needed, it may not be safe to drive after dark or at all. It is said that after the age of 60, the human eye requires three times the light than a 20-year old in order to see. This is a natural decline that has to be taken into consideration as we get older.

 

Driving is a part of our independence as adults. It gives us the power of freedom to go where we want, when we want to. It is one of the gifts we have until we start declining and becoming incapable of doing it safely. For an elderly person, it may be a very difficult thing to talk about. They may become defensive, angry, and argumentative. They may even stop talking to you and avoid you in order to "let the conversation rest", while continuing to drive. Even when we discuss the aspect of safety for one's life and the life of others on the road, it may be hard for the elderly person to accept that this is the right time to let go of this privilege. What is most important is that we don't avoid this topic, but address it head-on. Ask the doctor to help talk to the elderly about this topic, go to the DMV and inform them of the change, provide alternatives to getting to where they need to go, and stay in the heart space of compassion and understanding. This can feel very disappointing for our elderly friends and family, and they may have a real problem with this decision, but for their own safety and the safety of others, it is really important that we all do the right thing and keep our roads safe. Start the conversation as soon as there is an observation or experience that offers insight into this needed change. With support, we can help our beloved elderly in this process of change and into the next phase of their lives.

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