Discussing an Elderly Parent's Ability to Drive a Car

Discussing an Elderly Parent's Ability to Drive a CarIt is one of the more troublesome decisions we must confront in older years, and an exceptionally delicate subject for adult children to broach with their senior parents: relinquishing the car keys. Driving a vehicle, while creating an inherent experience of freedom and independence, can become significantly hazardous due to a number of variables regarding aging. And letting go of that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.

Now we can add to the dilemma the latest studies that, for elderly drivers, giving up driving can result in both mental and physical decline. This determination points to a vicious loop of decreasing health resulting in the need to stop driving, resulting in further health decline through further solitude, depression, and less physical activity.

The research, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealed that seniors who relinquished their driving rights were doubly likely to experience intensifying depression, reduced physical functioning, and further decline in cognitive abilities. And even more concerning, individuals who stopped driving were more likely to die within the following 3-5 year time period.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, makes clear, “This is a very complex issue. It’s a sensitive balance, and the pros and cons of not driving need to be weighed on a case-by-case basis.”

In some situations, restricting driving during specific conditions can help ease the move into relinquishing the keys altogether. The senior’s doctor ought to be consulted first, naturally, and with his or her approval, try restricting driving during the nighttime, in poor weather, and in heavy traffic.

Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, highlights the need for older persons to continue to be involved in their community and to remain as mobile and socially involved as possible. Family are asked to find opportunities for their senior loved one to participate in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc. 

Atlanta Home Care Partners provides a helpful choice: safe, dependable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the freedom to continue to come and go as they please, while not placing themselves or others in harm’s way. We pay attention to each senior’s preferred agenda to reach desired destinations, allowing the senior to remain in full control over when and where to go. Contact us online or call 404.228.0103 to learn more.