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Seniors and Driving: Have an Older Adult Driver You’re Concerned About?

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Of course, driving is a tremendous part of independence, whether you are 16 or 86 years old. When the time comes for hanging up the keys, families often struggle with how to effect this big change in life of an older adult.  Handling aging drivers is tricky, especially since ability varies apart from chronological age. Public safety is the bottom line.

For Self-Esteem, We Want Older Adults To Drive As Long As It Is Safe.

  • Add a cushion and wider mirrors to improve visibility from inside the car
  • Have annual hearing, vision, and driving assessments
  • If night vision is poor, travel only in the daytime
  • Plan routes like UPS—avoid left turns where possible
  • A person with dementia will eventually lack the judgment and reaction time require to drive safely. It is best to plan ahead.

Before They Are Needed, Look Into Transportation Alternatives

  • Ask your local Area Agency On Aging for options
  • Check out rides from your senior’s church for Sunday morning, and other clubs and community centers for driver volunteers
  • Home care provides transportation
  • Create a schedule for family members to help drive for errands and doctor’s appointments
  • Local mall may have a senior’s van service
  • Carpool to events with younger drivers

Time To Hang Up The Keys? (Spoiler Alert: this won’t be fun.)

The Signs

  • Your parent’s friends will not ride with him or her behind the wheel
  • Consistently erratic driving, ignoring rules or failing to see traffic signals and lanes
  • Driving above or below posted speed limit
  • Frequent contact with curbs, accidents or tickets
  • Medical condition or medication causes drowsiness when driving
  • New damage to car or garage
  • Getting lost or becoming disoriented while driving

The Process:

  • Get her talking about the difficulties she’s having with driving.  Casually begin a conversation about driving and then ask questions, such as “So much has changed in Lincoln, I tend to get a little lost while driving at night. Has that ever happened to you?”
  • If she/he is open to the discussion, present the options you’ve already uncovered for transportation and mention local safe driver programs, i.e., Nebraska’s Grand Driver. Learn more at www.Transportation.Nebraska.Gov/nohs/granddriver.html.
  • Resistant parents may need a doctor’s letter/prescription for no driving.  A doctor may prescribe Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Driver Rehabilitation program, which includes and assessment of ability and potential recommendation of discontinuing driving.  Find out more about the program at
  • Enlist the help of an authority figure or trusted associate to speak to the unsafe driver about permanently stopping driving
  • Report an unsafe driver to the DMV, using a Citizen’s Reexamination Report   This will begin a procedure for examining the licensee’s ability to drive safely and a possible revocation of the Operator’s License
  • Disable the car and remove it.

Last Ditch Efforts

Be patient and firm through out the process of giving up driving. Many people fiercely resist this loss of independence.  Once gone, others will have a grieving time.  Seek help if you need it and remember the safety of your loved one and others is at the heart of matter.


Lee Nyberg seeks to help families and those living with Alzheimer’s through education and her company, Home Care Assistance.  Call her if an older adult you know needs a little help continuing to live independently at home, 402-473-9140.


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