If you have a loved one in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you may be worried that he/she is not capable of driving safely. Driving is said to be one of the most sensitive issues families of those with AD will tackle. Most family members want to encourage the independence of their loved one, but how can safety be ensured for each stage of the disease?
A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states auto crash deaths among elderly drivers 70 and older fell as much as 21%. Although more elderly folks are driving today, the number of fatalities is going down, compared to numbers in the past. Perhaps drivers are taking more safety precautions than ever before, due to an increase in safety awareness. The studies indicate that in general older adults can be safe on the road, but if your family member suffers from AD, there may be a real concern for loss of cognitive skills (hearing loss, and other normal physical changes that occur in aging adults) that may interfere with safe driving.
The following are some general tips to follow when evaluating the safety of your senior loved one’s driving skills;
•Does the senior driver feel nervous or fearful when driving
•Do you note any problems staying in his/her lane
•Has your loved one had any close calls or near crashes
•Do you notice frequent dents or scratches on the vehicle
•Does he/she have difficulty judging distance when passing or entering traffic at entrance or exit ramps
•Are there any physical impairments that make it difficult for your loved one to turn his head to check his/her blind spot or when backing up?
•Is he/she easily distracted when driving-trouble concentrating on the road?
•Is your senior loved one having more trouble with directions that he/she used to?
The above check list was designed by the IIHS to evaluate the safety of senior drivers. If your loved one is experiencing any of the problems with safe driving listed above, it may be time to have a discussion with the physician and other family members about the safety of his/her driving skills.
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