Caring for Elderly Parents Who Combine Driving With Health Issues?

by Kaye Swain

Baby Boomer and Senior Citizen News is an important part of SandwichINK for the Sandwich Generation mBaby boomer and senior citizen driving news has been making headlines again. Particularly since an Australian study was released in around May. The New York Times New Old Age has an interesting article about this study, Elderly Drivers Fail a Test. It features an interesting discussion around the topic that, the older most people get, the less skilled they may be at driving. They did a series of tests with older drivers that did seem to have some disconcerting results, showing problems in the driving habits and skills of the tested seniors. I have to admit, though, I join with several of the commenters to the article in wondering whether, if this same type of test was given to teen drivers, busy parents driving with kids, and business people talking on their cell phones (even with hands-free equipment), how they would fare in this same test? None of us is perfect, or perfectly focused, 100% of the time!

How to care for aging parents by Morris covers the topic of elderly drivers and driving issuesStill, for those of us caring for elderly parents with degenerative diseases, such as recovering stroke patients, those with Parkinsons Disease, etc., there is definitely serious cause for concern. And, since I've been on the topic of caring for a family member who is a stroke patient, including at home, I thought this would be a perfect topic to explore further.

I remember heading into a restaurant a few years ago and discovering an elderly woman trying to park her car in the parking lot. She was stopped in the middle of the driving area and looked confused. She said the car had stopped, she turned it off  and then she couldn't get it to restart and asked me for help. As I recall, it was a simple fix. She just had it in the wrong gear. I switched gears, started it easily and parked it for her. She and her even older husband then slowly headed into the restaurant with me, and we chatted a bit. I became a bit concerned about her mental well-being in general and encouraged her to call her son to come and help her. That solved the issue for the moment, but what about future outings? And sadly, that's not necessarily an anomaly! 

So how do we, caring for the elderly parents and relatives in our families, deal with this? I'd love to tell you there's a simple answer in black and white. No such luck. But there are some excellent helps and resources for us and I'm here to share some with you:

Caring.com is a great resource for the state driving laws. They have each state listed and the information specific to elderly drivers. Here's California's:

California Elderly Driving Laws

Specific rules for older drivers

  • No renewal by mail or Internet after age 70.

Standard driver's license renewal

  • License renewed: Every 5 years.
  • Renewal conditions: In person, but qualified drivers (that is, drivers under 70 who are not on driving probation or suspension) can renew by mail or Internet for no more than 2 license terms in a row.
  • Vision test: Yes, at in-person renewal.
  • Written test: Yes, at in-person renewal.
  • Road test: Only if there are indications of driver impairment, based on a report by a law enforcement officer, a physician, or a family member.

For more information

California Department of Motor Vehicles 
PO Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001 
800-777-0133
www.dmv.ca.gov

Isn't that a big help for us! And doesn't that sound perfect? Still NOT black and whiteAs my senior dad's Parkinsons Disease progressed, I became more and more concerned about his driving. He hadn't had any tickets or accidents. But when I was in the car with him, I noticed his movement was not as flexible as it should be – for things like checking behind him or in the "blind spot."  I also saw that when he was walking, he was freezing more. I kept worrying about it, and about whether he would be able to keep moving from the brake to the gas pedal safely! I would really have appreciated another of Caring.com's articles at that point, How to Know When Someone Should Stop Driving - Giving up the car keys is bound to be hard for your aging family member — and for you.
 
The Complete Eldercare Planner by Loverde also covers the issues of caring for the elderly parents who are still drivingI was so relieved when my dad was required go in to the DMV because of the requirements listed above. I had hoped that would resolve my dilemma but it didn't. Even though my dad's Parkinsons Disease was progressing, he was able to pass the their visual exam and they didn't require him to drive with them. It took a couple of more months of talking through the whole situation with him before we came to a peaceful resolution of his choosing to stop driving. And I was so proud of him. He did it with a perfectly clean driving record. Better than mine from my teen years!  Which, by the way, is something AAA will often point out. We boomers and seniors may be getting older and slower, but we are also often more cautious and careful, thus resulting in good driving records.

Speaking of AAA, they have a wonderful site for senior citizens that I just discovered.  With assessment tests, online videos and education, and plenty of helpful tips and ideas for what to do if you or an elderly parent has to quit driving, it's definitely a great resource. Yet another reason I love AAA and their roadside assistance plans clubs

Having access to so many great resources is definitely good news for those of us boomers and seniors caring for elderly parents, including beloveds who are stroke patients, and looking for guidance! And I'm not done! I have several more, which I'll be sharing next Thursday!  :) 

Kaye

P.S. Thank you so much for your comments. I enjoy them very much and read each one. I also love the grand ideas so many of you share that help and encourage other readers. I do my best to reply to them all but value your patience when that isn\'t possible.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous

2 Craig Fukushima

From @SandwichINK-Caring for #Elderly Parents Who Combine Driving With Health Issues? http://ow.ly/5pGRv

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