Seniors and Driving: Knowing When it’s Time to Hang Up the Keys

Nursing Home Blog

Objects - Key RackAs seniors age, new issues arise that concern both the elderly individual and his/her family members. These concerns, such as estate planning, conservatorship, long-term care and disability fall under the legal practice known as elder law.

These issues affect more and more people as the elderly population continues to grow due to people living longer, healthier lives. However, the aging process ultimately means the advent of disabilities of varying severity.

Both the natural aging process and various disabilities can impair a senior’s ability to drive safely. These issues include worsening vision and hearing, decreased motor reflexes and/or increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Aging also means a generally weakened state, with less strength, flexibility and coordination, which are important factors when it comes to driving effectively.

It is important for family members to recognize warning signs that a parent or family member may need to stop driving for his/her sake and for those on the road. Of course, once recognized, informing the senior that they need to stop driving can be a sensitive issue. It is important to remember how the senior views this — as a loss of independence and freedom — and to help them see how it is a positive, not a negative life change (i.e. cost-effective, promoting more physical activity and exercise, living life at a more deliberate pace).

Here are warning signs that may mean it’s time for a senior to stop driving:

  • Taking daily medications that impair reflexes and/or a senior’s senses.
  • Eye conditions that affect effective vision for driving.
  • Hearing issues that keep a senior from registering honking horns and other important driving cues.
  • Problems with range of motion that is necessary when quickly reacting in driving situations.
  • Memory issues that lead to feeling lost or confused.

Sometimes a senior can continue driving, but with mindfulness and perhaps modifications. It helps if the senior:

  • Has regular check-ups to keep them in good driving shape and to talk about medications’ side effects that could affect driving abilities.
  • Is wearing up-to-date corrective lenses.
  • Makes sure his/her vehicle is clean for visibility concerns and has very bright instrument panels to improve viewing.
  • Checks hearing aids annually with a doctor.
  • Gets enough sleep.
  • Drives a vehicle with automatic, not manual, transmission and power steering and brakes.
  • Takes extra precautions to drive defensively.
  • Is aware of their unique limitations and what driving situations make them uncomfortable (i.e. bad weather or fast-moving traffic).
  • Knows when to consult a certified driving rehabilitation specialist or occupational therapist who can recommend specific equipment to make driving easier.

If you have any concerns regarding your aging loved one and his/her long-term care issues, contact the elder law attorneys at Garcia, Artigliere & Medby to discuss your options. We are a nationwide law firm with offices in Arizona, Washington, Kentucky, California and Florida.