Putting on the Brakes

I remember the day I drove by myself for one of the first times. I remember in vivid detail driving to my grandparents’ house that day in Shorterville, Alabama. To ensure I drove safely…my parents sent my little brother to tag along. I had another friend in tow and after the three of us enjoyed my grandmother’s fried chicken and fixin’s on a Sunday afternoon we were soon on our way. A couple things I would have done differently given that opportunity again today. One I would have stayed longer. As an adult now with my grandparents both passed away for over nearly 20 years, I realize the importance of slowing down. The other thing I would have done differently is listened to my granddaddy when he said to “drive safely” as I waved bye and honked the horn. Had I listened, I probably would have avoided the little fender bender I had on the way home. It only took one little scare and I was convinced safety had to come first when I got behind the wheel. Driving at any age seems to some like having the keys to independence. But in many cases just having those keys doesn’t mean we SHOULD drive. Having this discussion is difficult no matter if you are discussing it with your teenage child or your aging parents. Many adult children are faced with the role reversal task of talking to their elderly parent about whether it’s time to put the car in park.

So, when do you know when it’s becoming time to talk to your aging loved one about putting on the brakes? According to the AARP, here are some of the warning signs that indicate a person should begin to limit or stop driving.

1. Almost crashing, with frequentred-light-stop “close calls”

2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.

3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations

4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings

5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals

pexels-photo-68624If you find these troubling issues are the case for your loved one and you don’t see any possibility for improvement, then it may be time to have the tough discussion about letting others do the driving. AARP also has a great resource in the “We Need to Talk” program, developed by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab that according to their site, “helps drivers and their loved ones to recognize warning signs. It also helps families initiate productive and caring conversations with older adults about driving safety.”

Age alone is not a predictor for poor driving skills. It is important to remember that medications, cognitive issues or physical limitations can impair driving ability. These factors must be considered for driver safety. Finally, if you drive with an aging parent or loved one and have concerns, don’t wait to initiate your concerns about whether it might be time to stop driving. Be an advocate for their safety and the safety of others. For more information on things to watch for if you have driving concerns see the Caring.com Checklist: 8 Ways to Assess Someone’s Driving. If you think they are a good candidate for assisted living please visit our website at http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com. Our properties offer transportation to appointments and for other outings.

Call today to get more information 1-888-258-8082.

When is it time for Mom to stop driving?


We all remember how we felt when we got our driver’s license as a teenager, that feeling of “being a grownup”, that sense of independence.  Becoming a licensed driver is the first taste of independence that most experience.  Conversely, when is it time to stop driving?  This question is a difficult one as most of us would see this as a serious loss of independence.  The question looms even larger when the driver is our parent.

Not being able to drive raises practical questions; “how will Mom get to her physician appointments or the grocery store”?  It can also represent another loss at a time of life already buffeted by major losses — of independence, health, and lifelong friends and loved ones.  For practical and emotional reasons, then, giving up driving is a transition that everyone involved wishes to put off as long as possible. It’s no wonder that many adult children and spouses say that taking away the car keys was among the hardest things they ever had to do.  Still, if you are concerned about your Mom and her ability to drive, it’s important not to ignore it.

Below are some questions to ask to help you decide if it’s time for your Mom to stop driving:

  1. Take a drive with your Mom and observe her driving skills. Does she seem anxious; does she lean forward in the seat and appear worried?
  2. Pay attention to see if she is reluctant to drive. Does driving make her nervous or uncomfortable?
  3. Watch for slowed response time when driving.
  4. Notice her awareness of the driving environment. Does she tailgate; does she drift into another lane?
  5. When she’s not with you, walk around her car and look for signs of damage.
  6. If you’ve noticed some problems with driving, ask her if she has gotten any tickets or if her car insurance rates have gone up.
  7. Check with her trusted friends and neighbors. They may not feel comfortable reaching out to you, but if you approach them and they have concerns, they will likely tell you what the issues are.
  8. Does your Mom have health problems that cause weakness or tremors? Does she have problems with vision loss due to glaucoma or macular degeneration?  Does she have hearing loss that may make it hard for her to notice horns or emergency vehicle sirens?

If you notice problems with any of the items listed above, it’s time to sit down and talk to your Mom about what you see.  Expect that Mom will have objections and try to minimize any of the problems you notice.  Remember, this is an issue that will make Mom feel like she is losing her independence.  Be prepared for a long discussion and keep reiterating your concern for her safety.  Also be prepared to address how she can access transportation for basic activities of daily living like trips to the grocery, physician, Church or other events.  It may take several conversations, but be persistent.  In the end, your primary concern if her safety.