When should I take the keys away from my parent?  We get asked that routinely and have been asked to be involved in many family discussions.

This week, we’ll explore warning signs that indicate it’s time to have that discussion.  In coming weeks, we’ll talk about How to have that talk and alternatives to driving that ensure your parent retains their dignity and honor.

There are several reasons why someone should not drive.  While not directly attributable to age, older adults might be more prone to these conditions.

  • Poor vision (narrowed peripheral vision, poor night vision, sensitivity to bright lights)
  • Hearing loss (especially as it relates to ability to hear warning sounds or sirens)
  • Limited mobility or decreased flexibility (which diminish response times and could limit the ability to turn your      head)
  • Chronic conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, sleep apnea, etc.)
  • Medications (which might cause drowsiness or have unpredictable or dangerous side-effects)
  • Dementia (which could make driving more confusing)

Here are some signs that might indicate declining driving skills:

  • Getting lost could occur even on familiar roads or might be shown through the inability to follow directions.
  • Erratic driving might involve brupt lane changes, suddenly braking/accelerating, hitting curbs or missing turns, and scaring pedestrians.
  • Frequently startled because drivers and pedestrians “appear out of nowhere” is a sign of impaired capabilities.
  • Incompetent night driving can be observed even if the driver is more skilled in daylight hours.
  • High speed difficulty is shown through the inability to drive at the speed limit, particularly when driving on the freeway.
  • At-fault accidents or near crashes can be evidenced through scrapes on the mailbox and garage door, as well as seen on the vehicle.
  • Increased traffic tickets might indicate a change in skill.
  • Drifting into other lanes is a clear sign.
  • Inappropriate turn signals could be the failure to use turn signals or keeping them on without turning or changing lanes.
  • Range of motion issues can be seen through the inability to look over the shoulder or having difficulty changing gears.

These are some of the reasons why a parent ought not be driving and several signs that driving skills have diminished to a point where driving might be unsafe.

Next week, we’ll explore reasonable alternatives to driving and then we’ll explore how to “have the talk” with your parent.

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