We recently saw an article in the Shawnee Mission Post about an increase in automobile crashes at salons: Rash of Elderly Drivers Crashing Into Mission Shops Raises Safety Concerns.
Certainly, when an elderly loved one crashes into the front of a salon, it’s time to hang up the keys.
Did it really have to come to this? Fortunately, the drivers and patrons at the salons were not injured in these incidents. What if someone was hurt, or even killed? Even if everyone walks away unharmed, an accident is expensive and may shut down the business while repairs are being made.
It’s best avoided altogether, if possible.
Warning signs were likely observed long before the incident:
- new unexplained dings and dents on the car body
- issues involving the side mirrors (broken or snapped off)
- being honked at by other drivers
- an increase in traffic tickets or traffic stops by police
- more warning signs (from AARP)
It’s extraordinarily difficult to approach an older loved one about driving. Declining driving skills are usually an early sign of cognitive decline, and family members may not have started to assume a caregiver role yet. They aren’t comfortable asserting themselves with someone who has been an authority figure, someone they love and respect, all their lives. They do not want to hurt their feelings.
It can also be hard to make a logical argument, particularly if the early stages of dementia are setting in. Logical thinking is one of the first things to decline with dementia.
Sometimes family members come to care managers hoping they will have the “magic words” that will “convince” Mom or Dad to stop driving; unfortunately, no such words exist.
Professional Driving Evaluation
The Shawnee Mission Post article offers a solution – driver skills testing. Sometimes it is easy to get a person to sign up because they are sure they are competant drivers and they want to prove it, to get their families off their backs. Yet, it takes a bit of planning and money is needed. Medicare does not cover driver evaluation, since driving is not considered a critical health care activity. Others may not want to be tested, stating that they don’t need to be tested, or they cannot afford it.
Two organizations provide driver evaluation in the Kansas City area:
- Shawnee Mission Medical Center Driving Program
- Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City Driving Evaluation and Training Program.
One strategy to get a parent or loved one to get evaluated is to partner with his or her doctor. A doctor’s order is needed for evaluation at the program. A parent may follow the advice of the physician over a “nagging” son or daughter!
After Retirement from Driving
Once a senior has decided to give up driving, a whole new set of problems arise – transportation. The Kansas City suburbs do not provide easy to use public transportation. Even if the bus system is readily available to a senior, if a person has relied on driving all of their adult life, learning to use a bus system is challenging.
There are taxis and other paid services, but these can get expensive.
There are volunteer driving services for a low cost or free, but these require advance planning, and they may restrict the type of travel they’ll permit (for example, only to medical appointments, or only within a certain geographic area.) They may not be able to guarantee a ride in every circumstance.
These are real challenges families face when caring for their senior loved ones. The solution usually ends up being a patchwork of paid services, friends, family, public services, and rethinking travel needs. Making the patchwork work can take quite a bit of effort.
No Easy Answer
There is no obvious, logical, one-size-fits-all solution. When we start to think about how to live without access to independent transportation, we start to confront the way we have set up our communities to require independent transportation. These are big issues that won’t be solved overnight, yet they are worth addressing for future generations of seniors.
In the meantime, coordinating many transportation providers is the best we can do. Look to those knowledgable in social systems to assist when you find yourself in this situation. Your best resources are the following:
- Social Workers
- Case Managers
- Area Agencies on Aging
- Geriatric Care Managers
- Town or county governments
- Social service and charitable agencies (e.g. The Shepherd Center, Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities Kansas City – St. Joseph)
Do you need help managing the care of an elderly loved one in Kansas City or Overland Park, Kansas, or in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, or Staunton, Virginia?
Contact us at Care is There Geriatric Care Management 800.434.1633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer geriatric care management, support for independent living, assisted living enhancement, Aging Life Care™ services, and peace of mind for long distance caregivers.
AGING LIFE CARE™ is a trademark of the Aging Life Care Association. Only ALCA members are authorized to use this term to identify their services. See the Team page of CareisThere.com for a list of our associates, and look for the Aging Life Care logo on the bio pages of our ACLA members.