Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seniors, Independence, and Saying Good-bye to the Car Keys

Image credit: - free image

Buried in today's Wisconsin State Journal was an Associated Press article addressing the topic of when and why families should move to take the car keys away from failing seniors.  America, especially here in the vast Midwest, has a love affair with cars.  Age 16 marks a significant step towards independence when drivers license are issued.  But what about the decades that follow?  When should a person's car independence be curtailed?

Recently I posed this very question to my mother's hospitalist (sort of the primary care doctor when a patient is in the hospital).  Should she be driving was my question.  His response did not help me much:  I have no evidence to give the Department of Transportation that her license should be taken away, but that does not mean she is a good driver.

According to the article, I am not alone.  "600,000 older drivers a year quit because of health conditions.  But there are no clear-cut guidelines to tell who needs to -- and quitting too soon can be detrimental to someone who might have functioned well for longer."

As I type I can hear my husband in my head; an avid bike commuter for many years, he associates many societal problems with our dependence on cars.  Sadly it appears that for seniors to remain independent in many areas of the country, driving is essential, even though that one skill may be failing faster than other abilities.

While doctors can have a strong influence on this decision, many remain silent.  One question than can pose, which was posed to me -- would the person be allowed to drive with grandchildren in the car?  If no, then the answer is evident on whether the senior should continue driving.  But then what?  How will doctors visits be met, groceries purchased, errands run?  Thanks to the internet many things can be delivered, but not everything.  Our family is addressing this question at the moment, as are hundreds of thousand across the country.

Do you have a story to share?  A tip for making this transition easier?  Please post and share with others.

No comments: