Signs that Driving Has Become an Issue for Your Aging Relative
Photo: AARP

from Aging & Caring: A Guide for Families and Caregivers by Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee 

We all want to maintain our independence by driving as long as possible. The fear of losing independence and, thus, possibly having to move from home, keeps many older adults driving when it is no longer safe to do so.

Some signs that driving has become a problem:

  • Feeling more nervous while driving
  • More traffic tickets or warnings in the last year
  • More dents or scratches on the car or on curbs, garage walls, or doors, etc…
  • Trouble consistently staying in a single lane of traffic
  • Trouble seeing or following road signs and pavement markings
  • Difficulty concentrating with driving
  • Medications that may be affecting the ability to concentrate or drive safely
  • Response time to unexpected situations is slower than it used to be
  • Trouble moving foot from the gas the brake pedal
  • Getting lost more often
  • Difficulty in judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on entrance/exit ramps
  • More frequent “close calls”
  • Other drivers honking more often
  • Trouble seeing the sides of the road when looking ahead

Those concerned about an older adult’s mental or physical ability to continue driving can seek help in several ways:

AARP Driver Safety Program
This course (two four-hour sessions) is designed by AARP to alert older adults to normal age-related changes that affect driving capabilities. The course is also intended to help drivers improve their skills. Call 1-888-227-7669

Family doctor or ophthalmologist can intervene
Call before an appointment and ask that the older adult be evaluated regarding the ability to drive. The doctor can be the deliverer of unwelcome news.

Disable the car for dementia patients
Disconnect the negative battery cable
File key so that it does not start the car

Driver Evaluation
These programs, conducted by occupational and physical therapists, are designed to evaluate the driving abilities of the disabled or older adult, including physical, psychological, perceptual and cognitive status. Necessary adaptive driving equipment and training may be recommended.

Adaptive Driving Aids
These devices can make it easier for older adults to get in and out of a car. Driving aids include easy grip key holders, oversized rearview mirrors and seat belt extenders. Some websites carrying these devices are liveoakmed.com and wrightstuff.biz

Alternatives to Driving

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Congregational Groups
  • Uber/Lyft
  • Personal Support Services (i.e.Caregivers by WholeCare)
  • Assisted Living facilities generally provide transportation for their residents

Visit coamidtn.org for more information and to get your own copy of  Aging & Caring: A Guide for Families and Caregivers.

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