Life Enrichment Coach, Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging
A New Britain resident felt her heart chill when she picked up the phone and heard a police officer say, “Your mother’s been in an accident.”
Thankfully it was relatively minor: her mother accidentally sideswiped another car outside the grocery store. No one was injured but everyone was shaken up.
“How can I tell my mother she shouldn’t drive anymore?” the daughter asked when she called the Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging, which has offices at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center and Windham Hospital, among others.
The issue of senior driving is quite common. In 2014, 5,709 people ages 65 and older were killed in traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
When center resource coordinators visit a home to meet families and people in need, driving safety is an essential topic. Have there been warning signs - dents in the car, has the older driver gotten lost or doesn’t obey rules of the road? Does the driver have visual, physical or cognitive decline?
The next step may be an evaluation of functional skills by an occupational therapist and/or a driving assessment. The person’s physician should also be included in the conversation because there can be physical reasons for the decline in driving ability.
Telling a parent that it is time to stop driving can be a difficult conversation. For them, there is a real fear of lack of independence and isolation, and a feeling of loss. But an honest discussion about safety for themselves and others can be key.
Be clear, positive and voice your concerns. Help arrange alternative transportation from friends, dial-a-ride or a hired companion can provide reassurance to someone who fears losing their independence.
Here is a way to phrase your concern:
“Mom, we need to talk about your driving. We would feel awful if something terrible happened. We love you.”
For information on getting the conversation started with a loved one, or other issues regarding older adults, call the Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging at 1-877-424-4641. To read more health news from Hartford HealthCare clinicians or sign up for our e-newsletter, visit healthnewshub.org.