Talking to an older adult about voluntary loss of driving privileges can be very difficult. Loss of driving privileges means that the older adult is losing their autonomy and will be dependent on others for transportation. It may mean that now they will be less able to get out for social activities that are very important to their well-being. It is critical that before this conversation happens, alternatives are ready to be put in place to preserve some of their dignity and independence. Family members may be ready and willing to help but be realistic. This will be on-going. Perhaps there is someone available who will drive them when needed for a nominal fee. There are transportation services such as O.A.T.S. or Call-A-Ride to take them to some appointments.
Talk to the older adult early before it is an issue. Ask them if there is someone they trust to tell them when the time has come that they should no longer drive. Will they be willing to listen? Having this conversation early can make a big difference in the outcome of a conversation. If an older adult is seen driving erratically, it may be because of a drug interaction or changes in eyesight. Most adults will know when they no longer feel comfortable driving at night or when they feel unsafe driving in general.
Interventions exist to help older adults to maintain driving status. Driver training is available through AARP’s website, www.aarp.org/drive to enhance and help driver’s adapt to changing limitations. Some states require that drivers be tested at certain intervals with a road test and vision screen. Older adults need to get eye exams yearly to protect their eyes from changes due to illness, diabetes, and other conditions. Changing condition in the physical body is seen before the disease manifests through eye mapping. Cataracts, loose retina, and macular degeneration can cause driving impairments. Older adults should be screened regularly by an eye doctor.
If an older adult is being particularly resistant, enlist the help of a medical professional or the family attorney. Forms are available on the state website http://www.dor.mo.gov/mvdl/drivers/faq/unsafe.htm to report an unsafe driver. The vehicle licensing bureau will send out a letter requiring testing. The person reporting the observation will not be disclosed. Above all, use sensitivity when dealing with this momentous change in a person’s life. Be prepared to offer alternatives to ensure continuity in life choices.