Yesterday I ran into Aunt Vicki at the grocery store. At first I saw an elderly lady bent over at the waist almost totally in the meat counter trying to read the labels on the packages. When I tapped her on the shoulder she slowly straightened up and just stared at me. When I spoke to her she recognized my voice. Aunt Vicki is 86 years old and has a heart condition and severe macular degeneration. She gets bimonthly injections in her eyes for her condition, finds it almost impossible to read print of any kind, and can’t recognize faces. In conversation, I learned she had driven herself to the store and she begged me not to tell her family….they didn’t think she should be driving. That’s not the part that worried or surprised me. I was most alarmed with and surprised at the fact that she still had a car and access to the keys!!! According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 30 million senior drivers on the road these days. Some of these seniors shouldn’t be driving. If you care for or know a senior driver you surely can understand their fear of giving up their driving and cars. To a senior driver, that car represents freedom and the independence to go where they want whenever they want. Unfortunately, everyone ages at a different rate and y0ur loved one may need to reconsider how safe they are on the road. Sometimes it’s up to the family to help the senior decide what to do. There are signs to look for if you suspect your loved one shouldn’t be on the road.
Are there any scratches or dents on the car? Does your loved one have problems with vision or hearing? Do they have a good range of motion? Are there any problems moving the foot from the gas pedal to the brake as is often caused by severe arthritis or diabetic neuropathy? Do they drift into other lanes or travel on the shoulder of the road? Do other drivers honk at them often and are they oblivious to the honking? Do they get lost on familiar routes or have trouble reading signs? Are they having more and more “close calls” and “near misses” with other vehicles? As someone who cares, you need to take a few rides with your senior periodically so you can assess the situation. Accidents increase in drivers over 65 and fatalities increase dramatically in drivers over 75 because with age they are less able to withstand the physical effects of an accident. So take a road trip with your senior loved one and you may save their life and the life of another innocent driver.
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