Baby 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!
Still, 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 Department of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001
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!