I’m very concerned about my 85 year old father. He’s starting to show early signs of dementia and still drives. He enjoys getting out of the house and running errands but he insists on driving himself. I’m afraid he’s going to get into an accident. – Elizabeth, Holbrook, NY
You’re not alone in worrying about your father’s safety behind the wheel. A recent survey shows almost one in ten adults have this same concern. The first step is assessment. The Department of Motor Vehicle recommends taking a ride with your father and watching for the following:
- Did he wear his seatbelt?
- Was he sitting the at least 10 inches from the steering wheel?
- Were the mirrors adjusted properly?
- Could your father see over the steering wheel adequately?
- Does he stop at red lights, yield right of way, stop at all stop signs and look both ways before proceeding?
- Does he pay attention to other vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians and road hazards?
- Does he stop or slow down at inappropriate times, such as at green lights?
- Does he drive too slowly impeding the safe flow of traffic?
- Does he merge and change lanes safely?
- Does he cancel the directional signals?
- Does he get lost often?
If you find your father should hang up the keys it’s important to broach the subject with sensitivity. Driving gives seniors a sense of independence and autonomy. Having to cease driving could lead to anger and possibly depression. However, AARP offers an online seminar that provides the tools to help have this important conversation.