the art of caring for your aging loved one

To Drive or not to Drive ...

Is it Time for Action?

Some medical troubles may affect driving ability. Aging, dementia conditions, kidney and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, head injury and neurological disorders, breathing difficulties, and certain medications can affect reaction time, vision, depth perception, memory and attention, among other things.

No one is ever comfortable losing the privilege to drive a car.

For many, it can be the last symbol of independence.

Risk Factors for Impaired Driving Ability

There are many:

  • illness and medications that cause a decline in perception, mobility, and understanding
  • poor vision, especially night vision, failing eyesight
  • problems with depth perception
  • hearing problems
  • slow reflexes
  • memory problems
  • disorientation
  • reduced mobility, such as difficulty turning head
  • physical weakness and impairments
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • lack of judgment
  • lack of awareness

Signs of impaired driving ability that may be related to aging and/or illness:

  • weaving, lane shifting
  • unsafe left turns
  • ignored signs and signals
  • stopping at green lights
  • inappropriate turns, including turns that are too wide and too sharp
  • unsafe passing
  • lane changing without checking
  • failure to yield right of way
  • difficulty backing up
  • improper entrance and exit from highways
  • confusion at highway entrances and merges
  • driving wrong way on highways
  • slow driving
  • slow response to changes in driving and traffic conditions
  • taking too long to reach the destination
  • not reaching destination
  • getting lost
  • unexplained dents in the car
  • fender benders/accidents
  • traffic tickets

Get the Ball Rolling

When driving is no longer an option for your Aging Loved One, you must get the ball rolling.

Someone must bring up the subject. Are you the lucky one ... again? Or, do you know of a neighbour or friend, close in age to Dad and Mum who might be willing to discuss the situation?

There is no easy way to say, "Dad, it's time to hand over the keys."

How do you sugar coat it? The bald truth is that you can't.

What you can do is ask someone else to do the deed for you.

Here are some conversation starters, supplied by

  • Dad, we have seen things that indicate you are having some problems driving. You have had a couple of close calls recently.
  • Mum, I'm concerned about your safety and that someone might get hurt. You can't change lanes in an intersection as you did last week.
  • You've always been straight with me and now I need to be straight with you. Your reactions are slower than they once were. It could be a result of your medications.
  • Honey, I know you've been a good driver for a long time, but things have changed. You drive much slower than you used to. Sometimes I worry that you don't see other vehicles. We don't need a lawsuit to complicate our lives.
  • Dad, I'm really concerned about your driving. You have to stop now before something serious happens. You confused the brake and gas pedals.
  • Mum, you have been such a good driver for so long. Let's not let it end with something terrible happening. You got lost the other day.

You have praised when possible. You have discussed some changes in physical condition. You have emphasized how much you care about safety and that of others. You care.

Licensing authorities, physicians, insurance companies, and concerned families can refer clients to DriveABLE. Pronounce it as two words: drive and able.

The DriveABLE program, based on scientific research, was developed at the University of Alberta and has been widely adopted across Canada, in major cities, and in some states of the U.S.

The program is a valuable resource.

It's a professional assessment! (You saw that one coming, didn't you?)

Suggest that Dad or Mum take advantage of an independent, private driving assessment such as DriveABLE.

The client, your Aging Loved One, must give consent to the test. The results are forwarded to his family doctor and to the local drivers' licensing authority. If Dad fails the test, he forfeits his keys on the spot.

The staff is trained to be sensitive, professional, and consistent.

This thorough assessment takes approximately 1–2 hours. There is a fee. Keep the receipt. Some extended health insurance plans will cover the expense. Ask the accountant if it can be used at income tax time.

The best news ? The family may avoid frustrating arguments and upsets.

A professional takes the heat.

That may be worth the price of admission many times over.

The Alternative to Driving

It costs about $600–$800 per month to operate a motor vehicle, according to the Canadian Automobile Association. This is based, among other factors, on the value of the car, annual insurance, registration and license, regular maintenance, depreciation, fuel and oil. As time goes on, what do you think are the chances of the price going down?

Discuss the taxi option. Sell the car and put the money in a special account in the bank, if necessary.

Make some fun with the idea. Call it the Chauffeur Account.

Reputable taxi companies will set up a monthly account. They provide a card, about the size of a credit card, and an account number.

"I'd like to have a taxi here tomorrow at 10:00 to take me to my appointment. My account number is 6789."

"Let's go to a movie ... or visit the kids ... or meet our friends for lunch."

Once each month, the bill arrives. Dollars to donuts, it won't be $600.00!

Praise your Aging Loved One for doing the responsible thing by letting someone else deal with increased traffic, foul weather, parking, running expenses, and depreciation on his vehicle.

It's money in the bank. It's also a solution to a serious safety issue.

What if?

Okay. You've done what you can to remove the license. You may have met with resistance from Dad or Mum.

You may learn that one of them is driving without a license! Many do, sad to say.

You must either remove the vehicle from the property or disable it.

The police can intervene only when your Aging Loved One is caught in the act.

Never give up. Don't let a dangerous driver put himself and others at risk.

Remember ... You're helping. You're ensuring safety for everyone.

A Giggle for you

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang.

Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on 280. Please be careful!"

"Heck," said Herman, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"