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Should Dad Be Driving?

June 4, 2017

It’s a question most of us inevitably ask. If we are fortunate, dad accepts that he should no longer be at the wheel. More commonly, it’s a struggle. Driving provides such independence. It’s a big step for anyone to let it go.

Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that we slow down, but we do need to make adjustments as our physical capabilities change.

When you think about your loved one’s driving, here are some things to keep in mind:

Eyesight

Good vision is a must when driving. Unfortunately, it declines for almost everybody with age.   Our eyes are less able to focus and they lose their sensitivity to light.   Experts say that we need more light to see clearly as we get older. When we are 60, we need 10 times as much light as a 20-year old driver.

Like it or not, driving at night just is harder. Maybe ask dad to give up driving at night as a first step. And don’t forget about easy modifications that you van make to his auto, like a blind spot mirror or a bigger rear view mirror. These inexpensive items will dramatically upgrade his range of vision.

Physical Fitness

Driving needs us to have a minimum level of certain degree of strength, flexibility and coordination. We are safer drivers if we are in better physical condition.

Meds

Many older adults take at least one prescription medication. Many of these have side affects, such as drowsiness or reduced ability to concentrate. Always read the fine print and check with his physician.

Reaction Time

When we age, our reaction time slows.

Mental Capability

This is the elephant in the room!   It’s relatively easy to accept that one’s vision has declined. It’s a much bigger thing to say that about one’s cognition. If you think dad has dementia, consult a doctor.

If you worry about your father being at the wheel, share with him that eyesight and reaction times naturally get worse with age. These are less offensive concepts than dementia.  Hopefully, dad can stay safe and still enjoy the freedom of driving.

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