Getting older and facing cognitive decline can present challenges, especially when it comes to driving. As we age, it’s essential to have conversations about relinquishing car keys when necessary. Researchers at Michigan Medicine studied this issue in a South Texas community and discovered that a significant number of adults over the age of 65 with cognitive impairment continue to drive. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of addressing driving concerns, the impact of cognitive impairment on driving ability, and strategies for maintaining road safety as you age.
Understanding Cognitive Impairment and Driving
According to Michigan Medicine researchers, more than 600 adults over age 65 in Nueces County showed signs of cognitive impairment based on their cognitive assessment scores. Despite this, over 61% of them were still active drivers. Caregivers expressed concerns about the safety of these individuals on the roads.
The Effects of Cognitive Impairment on Driving
Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can significantly impact neuropsychological and visual skills, reducing the ability to drive safely. A 2017 review of motor vehicle crash risk indicated that dementia had medium to large effects on driving impairment. People with dementia also faced a higher likelihood of failing a road test compared to those without cognitive impairment.
Approaching the Driving Conversation
Discussions about driving with seniors experiencing declines in thinking can be challenging for both caregivers and individuals. Concerns such as loss of independence, potential embarrassment, and increased caregiver responsibilities may arise. However, it is essential to address these issues to ensure safety on the road.
Tips for Having the Conversation
- Start Early: Begin these conversations early, while the individual is still capable of understanding and participating in the decision-making process.
- Involve Healthcare Providers: Patients and caregivers should engage with healthcare providers to assess driving abilities and consider on-the-road driving evaluations to ensure safety.
- Advance Driving Directives: Close family members can have discussions with aging loved ones about Advance Driving Directives. These agreements facilitate conversations about driving cessation and help plan for alternative transportation solutions.
Adapting Driving Habits for Safety
The study authors found that as cognitive impairment increased, seniors were less likely to be driving. Many participants also limited their driving and avoided driving at night or during adverse weather conditions. Adapting driving habits can enhance safety on the road.
As seniors, it’s crucial to address the issue of driving safety as cognitive impairment may affect our ability to drive safely. Engaging in open conversations with caregivers and healthcare providers can help navigate this transition. By proactively discussing Advance Driving Directives and adjusting driving habits, we can prioritize road safety as we age. Remember, safety should always come first, and there are alternative transportation options available to maintain independence and mobility. This article highlights the importance of addressing driving concerns and provides essential tips for navigating the roads safely as we get older.