old_drivers_webOne of the biggest challenges for an older person to deal with is a loss of independence. And it’s possible that nothing represents that loss of independence more than having to stop driving.

While driving may be a difficult habit to part with, it is important for older drivers and their family members to know when the time is right. Aging can bring changes in both physical and cognitive functioning. Some abilities affected can include vision, reaction time, strength, flexibility, judgment and concentration. Some elders may be functioning well enough to drive, but if not, it is important to be prepared.

Lisa Crisalli, a driving rehabilitation specialist at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, states that issues with memory is the main sign an elder should cease driving.

“Memory problems are probably number one. They start showing short-term memory impairments,” Crisalli said. “Possibly physical limitations – difficulty walking or falling down – would question a family’s reasoning about an elder driving.”

Some routes of action to take could be to develop a mobility plan that outlines where and when it would be save for the elder individual to drive. Another possibility would to develop transportation alternatives. Some transportation services can be found through Elder Care of Alachua County and the Center for Independent Living. It is also important to consult with the elder’s physician, as he or she can offer a referral for some evaluations, or even the Adaptive Driving Program at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital.

Crisalli, a driving rehabilitation specialist, tests the elder’s physical and cognitive skills that could affect their driving.

“I test their skills,” she said. “If they do fine on all the clinic tests, I put them behind the wheel and see how they do in different settings – multi-lane, two-lane, parking lot and highway.”

If a solution cannot be established with the elder, the family may need to take the keys or sell the car. Insurance companies can also be contacted to withdraw insurance coverage. Families may also contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and Highway Safety for additional assistance. While these solutions may seem extreme, the safety of the driver, passengers and the community is at risk.

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