Getting The Keys Back
By: Carlotta Katra
One of the biggest obstacles most families have is getting the keys to the car. This certainly isn't an easy task but one that is often necessary to keep them from hurting themselves as well as others. People sometimes think that they only need to take the keys away if they have dementia. There are many reasons that make a senior unsafe when driving like vision (frontal and side), hearing, their reaction ability, understanding the rules of the road and limitations due to physical impairments.
It is important to take a drive with an aging senior at least once a quarter. Use the Safe Senior Driving Checklist at www.agingavenues.com/checklists/safe_driving.pdf to evaluate how safe they really are. If you see a problem you can begin by letting their primary physician know of your concern and request they be evaluated. Many seniors have attended the AARP Safe Driving Course however that is only a classroom course and doesn't evaluate them all on levels. Often they believe that they are fine driving and don't recognize the dangers. Then you need the help of a professional to be the final determinate.
There are Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (DRS) specifically trained to evaluate
all areas of driving evaluations (on and off road), recommend adaptive equipment and vehicle modification. DRS perform a comprehensive clinical assessment that includes evaluation of vision, cognition, physical abilities, behavior, judgment, attention and perception is performed followed by a behind-the-wheel evaluation of a driver's abilities (if appropriate). They also train people to drive with adaptive devices or modifications. At times they are able to recommend corrections for people with Macular Degeneration or other visual disabilities. Many DRS are also Occupational therapists that recognize changes that accompany medical conditions and then modify their evaluation and intervention plans accordingly. Occupational therapists can also offer rehabilitation to strengthen skills in driving. Typical diagnoses/conditions that might require the services of a DRS include stroke, arthritis, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy (no feeling in their feet), amputations and joint replacements. It is also appropriate for any client that has undergone a change in cognition (thinking) abilities, physical performance, emotional health or sensory loss following a disease process or accident. People with Alzheimer's are especially appropriate because they often forgot the rules of the road like signs, signals, speed and what's actually safe which can put many other people in danger.
A referral for a driving evaluation can come from any healthcare provider or family member. Following a referral for services, the DRS contacts the client and requests physician permission to perform a driving evaluation. At the conclusion of this testing, a decision is made and one of the following recommendations is given to the client:
- Pass without restriction
- Driver remediation/training
- Vehicle modification/adaptive equipment
- Restriction (i.e. driving within a certain radius
of home, daytime driving only, etc.)
- Referral to another professional (i.e. low-vision
- Driving Retirement
Recommendations are then forwarded to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and their physician with the client's knowledge. There is no guarantee that they will not drive until you have the keys but it's a great help to getting them to stop.
Author Resource: Carlotta Katra has been helping seniors and their families with eldercare issues for years. She developed http://www.AgingAvenues.com
to empower families with information on all issues to help them make informed choices.
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