As a caregiver to our elderly loved ones, who, by the way, fight hard to maintain their independence driving, has costly consequences. Yes, it has happened again! Car keys, night-time driving, and our elderly; the combination is serious and deadly. It is vital that you are stern and intentionally proactive as it relates to our loved ones driving with known challenges, be they physical, mental, visual, or cognitive.
Your subjective and objective truth usually does not lie. According to the Centers for Disease Control[CDC] and Prevention(2020), thousands of older adults are injured or killed in the United States every year in traffic crashes. They state 7,500 older adults were killed in traffic crashes, and almost 200,000 were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries. This means that each day, 20 older adults are killed and almost 540 are injured in crashes. Is your loved one in these statistics?
The Mindset of Older Adults
My mother told me in one conversation, the hardest thing about getting old was the lack of ability to do the things you have always done. She was referring to driving her car. Mommy did not learn to drive until my father died in 1965. I share some of these stories in my book: From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor. One of the first signs that became noticeable that ‘’it might be time to take away the keys’’ was her diminished reflex reaction time and her dimming eyesight. As independent as Shibbolethia B. Lewis was, the realization that things in her world had changed was a bummer.
So how do we arrest this scenario? It starts by paying attention to the movement and actions of your loved one. Observe a lot in silence. Never let a senior know you are policing them! Here are a few hints to consider. Are they walking slower? Are they taking longer to complete a task? Are they moving book pages or newspapers back and forth to get a better view of the items they are reading? One of my memorable moments of realizing “It’s time to take the keys” is playing a game of scrabble with mommy. She was an educator in the Toledo Public School System for 30+ years. She was a razor-sharp teacher. Rarely did things get past her but making words with her scrabble letter took a bit too long and placing the tiles on the scrabble board told a bigger story.
I had to be creative in taking away the keys. Do you know what I did? I’m glad you asked. I offered to drive her to and from the senior center. That was time for us to hang out, and she never felt I was taking away the keys. Later, I discovered the senior center had a transportation service that picked up the seniors daily. Yeah! Car keys, nighttime driving, and our elderly loved ones’ decision-making does not always mix. As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, it cannot be overstated to pay attention for health and safety’s sake!