Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, researcher and associate professor of gerontology and medicine at University of Massachusetts Boston. She is author of The Driving Dilemma.
Not everyone who should give up driving because of age or infirmity is willing to do it, we hear from Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, a researcher and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and author of The Driving Dilemma. She explained that giving up your car keys is emotionally loaded. “It’s important to realize that driving means more than getting from point A to point B. It is autonomy and independence.” If someone in your life needs to move to the passenger seat or you’re wondering whether it’s time for you to consider doing so yourself, it’s important to address the topic openly and honestly. You need to objectively evaluate abilities and deficiencies, and if evidence shows it’s time to stop driving, to come up with a plan for maintaining safety, independence and dignity, Dr. Dugan said.
A logical first step is a consultation with a health care provider, such as the family physician… to assess the individual’s abilities. Specific areas to review include:
A formalized multidisciplinary assessment is the gold standard for determining driving fitness, according to Dr. Dugan. These are programs in which a geriatrician or geriatric nurse practitioner assesses physical function… a social worker assesses driving history and driving needs… a geriatric neurologist or neuropsychologist provides a cognitive workup… and an occupational therapist takes the person for a road test and/or helps find adaptive products. Clinics providing these assessments are usually associated with medical schools or rehab centers. To find a clinic in your area, log onto the Web site of The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, and click on membership directory. While such an assessment is usually expensive and not covered by Medicare, it may turn out to be money well spent.
Even if an assessment concludes that it’s safe to drive, it may be wise to maintain or improve driving fitness with these steps:
Don’t minimize concerns about safe driving — if you or a family member is worried about it, chances are there is good reason. A heart-to-heart conversation emphasizing your concerns about safety while also expressing respect for your loved one’s feelings is an act of love, for your family and others in the community.