4 Ways to Ease Driving Transitions for Seniors

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Developing a process to assess your older loved one’s driving abilities, communicating your concerns, and planning ways to transition your older loved one from driving could help take some of the emotions out of this potentially contentious situation.

“Driving does not equal mobility,” said Elin Schold Davis, Project Coordinator, Older Driver Initiative, American Occupational Therapy Association. “It is one mode for getting from Point A to Point B. Giving up driving is not giving up engagement in the community.”

That notion—that giving up driving is giving up independence—should be countered at any stage of the process. Here are four suggestions to help ease driving transitions for seniors:

  1. Do all you can to help keep a safe driver safer. CarFit Canada is an educational program supported by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and the Canadian Automobile Association. The program is designed to help older drivers find out how well they currently fit their personal vehicle, to highlight actions they can take to improve their fit, and to promote conversations about driver safety and community mobility. According to CarFit:
    • Knowing how to properly adjust one’s mirrors can help to greatly minimize blind spots for drivers who may wish to change lanes.
    • Good foot positioning on the gas and brake pedals is important. If the driver is reaching with his or her toes to press on the pedals, it can cause fatigue in one’s leg and slowed reaction times.
    • Drivers run a risk of serious injury if they are sitting closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel.
    • Seat belt usage is among the most important habits for older adults to practice. If a senior is hesitant to wear a seat belt because of discomfort at the neck or because it is too hard to reach, you can explore solutions at CarFit Canada and discuss concerns with an occupational therapist.
  2. Get the facts. Any decisions about giving up driving should be based on data. That’s where evaluations are helpful. Here are some ways to get the facts:
    • Encourage your older loved one to get a physical exam. Perhaps an updated eye prescription or the removal of cataracts is all that’s needed to regain full driving ability.
    • Encourage a senior to take a driving refresher course, such as one available through CAA.
    • Encourage your older loved one to undergo a comprehensive driving evaluation by an occupational therapist in his or her area.
    • Check provincial regulations for requirements for older drivers, such as more frequent vision checks.
  3. Listen and communicate. Listen closely to the senior’s fears and apprehensions about giving up driving. You’ll need to understand these concerns to develop a plan with which he or she feels comfortable. Start a pro and con list of some options. For instance, a pro of no longer driving would be money savings in auto insurance, gasoline and car maintenance.
  1. Create a plan with plenty of alternatives. When you know the root of the senior’s concerns, it will be easier to create a plan that meets his or her needs. For example, if a senior is worried about isolation, look into public transportation options or consider friends who might be willing to help. According to a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, surveyed seniors reportedly are most often driving to go shopping, whether for groceries or other things, and to visit friends and relatives.

If you’re encountering push-back from a senior loved one, check out some ways to help counter resistance. For additional tips and resources related to senior driving transitions, visit www.LetsTalkAboutDriving.ca.