I can clearly remember the clinched teeth and grabbing of the dashboard by my mom as I was learning to drive. Ironically it is now me with white knuckles and throbbing jaws. My mom is now an elderly driver and I am beginning to see the signs of her diminished driving capabilities.
I know one day in the near future I am going to need to sit her down and seriously discuss taking the keys away, but when is it time? The state certainly isn’t watching her driving and her doctor may not know all the ways she is slowing in her mental capacity.
Luckily, I discovered Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital’s driver rehabilitation specialists that can evaluate her skills behind the wheel and help us to determine what is safest for her and others on the road. Here are some practical guides and warning signs to help you determine when the appropriate time has come.
Aging and Driving
As we age, changes occur in physical functioning, vision, perception and processing abilities that could make driving unsafe. While changes are inevitable, they occur at different rates in each individual, and age alone is not a good indicator of driving skills. Most often these changes occur slowly over a long period of time, and the individual is able to compensate for minor deficits. If several skill areas are affected or there is a sudden change in abilities due to illness or disease, however, driving may become impaired. An evaluation is recommended if you, or those who drive with you, notice any of the following warning signs.
Warning Signs for Elderly Drivers
- Doesn’t observe signs, signals, or other traffic notifications
- Needs help or instruction from passengers
- Slow or poor decisions
- Easily frustrated or confused
- Frequently gets lost, even in familiar areas
- Inappropriate driving speeds (too fast or too slow)
- Poor road position or wide turns
- Accidents or near misses
Departments of Motor Vehicles consider requiring a cognitive assessment by a health care professional if at least two of the following are present:
- Age 80 or older
- History of a recent crash or moving violation
- Applicant self-report or caregiver report of impaired skills
- Use of psychoactive medications such as benzodiazepines, neuroleptics, antidepressants, or use of medications for Alzheimer’s disease
- History of active alcohol abuse
- History of falls
- Inability to understand or hear instructions during interactions with the DMV examiner or the health professional
- Scores with simple screening tools that indicate the possibility of a cognitive deficit
- Inability to complete the DMV knowledge test
So, as my elderly mom drives me around our hometown this holiday season, I think I’ll watch for some of these warning signs. If you or someone you know is having difficulty driving, a driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation. In Wichita, you can call 316-268-8100 to schedule an appointment for a driving evaluation or contact Shelly Green, OTR, LDRS, at 316-634-3602 regarding any further questions about the driving program.
And good luck with those white-knuckle drives.