Raleigh Geriatric Care Management offers Medical Risk Factors for Older Drivers

By Connie Matthiessen, Caring.com senior editor
The following factors should not rule out driving, but they can elevate risk and warrant monitoring:
Health conditions. Physical and mental impairments that accompany aging, from Parkinson’s disease to dementia, can compromise driving agility and judgment. If you have questions about a senior’s ability to drive given his health problems, consult a physician, if possible, and raise the issue of driving safety. (Keep in mind that a physician can’t talk to you without the patient’s permission, unless you have power of attorney.)
Vision impairment. Vision is obviously a key component of driving ability. In fact, according to Elizabeth Dugan, author of The Driving Dilemma, “90 percent of the information needed to drive safely relates to the ability to see clearly.” From accurately reading the speedometer to detecting pedestrians on the side of the road, good driving requires good eyesight. But deterioration in vision is an inevitable effect of aging; in people 75 and older, vision impairment rates increase significantly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As the eye ages, far less light reaches the retina, for one thing. Older eyes are also more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems that impair vision. Encourage regular eye exams, and check in with the eye doctor if you have concerns.
Hearing impairment. Few people age without some deterioration in their hearing; in fact, one-third of those over 65 have hearing problems. Hearing loss can happen gradually, without your loved one realizing it, and undermine his ability to hear horns, screeching tires, sirens, and other sounds that would normally put them on high alert. Make sure thae person has regular hearing tests.
Prescription drug use and drug interactions. Many drugs can compromise driving ability by causing drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, tremors, or other side effects. Certain drugs taken in combination can also interact and cause serious problems. If your loved one takes a cornucopia of pills each day, as many elderly people do, educate yourself about the drugs and possible side effects. Even herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications can affect driving ability. Talk to your parent’s physicians and pharmacist, and be sure to ask about possible drug interactions.
Alcohol abuse. Drinking and driving is always a dangerous combination; add old age to the mix and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. As people age, alcohol remains in the system longer and tolerance declines. Also, elderly folks are likely to be on medication, which can exacerbate the effects of alcohol. Given these risks, and the difficulty of gauging exactly how much alcohol will impair an individual’s driving, Elizabeth Dugan’s advice is simple: “If you drink, don’t drive. Period.” If you suspect drinking and driving, you should take action immediately.
By Connie Matthiessen, Caring.com senior editor

The following factors should not rule out driving, but they can elevate risk and warrant monitoring:
Health conditions. Physical and mental impairments that accompany aging, from Parkinson’s disease to dementia, can compromise driving agility and judgment. If you have questions about a senior’s ability to drive given his health problems, consult a physician, if possible, and raise the issue of driving safety. (Keep in mind that a physician can’t talk to you without the patient’s permission, unless you have power of attorney.)
Vision impairment. Vision is obviously a key component of driving ability. In fact, according to Elizabeth Dugan, author of The Driving Dilemma, “90 percent of the information needed to drive safely relates to the ability to see clearly.” From accurately reading the speedometer to detecting pedestrians on the side of the road, good driving requires good eyesight. But deterioration in vision is an inevitable effect of aging; in people 75 and older, vision impairment rates increase significantly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As the eye ages, far less light reaches the retina, for one thing. Older eyes are also more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems that impair vision. Encourage regular eye exams, and check in with the eye doctor if you have concerns.
Hearing impairment. Few people age without some deterioration in their hearing; in fact, one-third of those over 65 have hearing problems. Hearing loss can happen gradually, without your loved one realizing it, and undermine his ability to hear horns, screeching tires, sirens, and other sounds that would normally put them on high alert. Make sure that person has regular hearing tests.
Prescription drug use and drug interactions. Many drugs can compromise driving ability by causing drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, tremors, or other side effects. Certain drugs taken in combination can also interact and cause serious problems. If your loved one takes a cornucopia of pills each day, as many elderly people do, educate yourself about the drugs and possible side effects. Even herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications can affect driving ability. Talk to your parent’s physicians and pharmacist, and be sure to ask about possible drug interactions.
Alcohol abuse. Drinking and driving is always a dangerous combination; add old age to the mix and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. As people age, alcohol remains in the system longer and tolerance declines. Also, elderly folks are likely to be on medication, which can exacerbate the effects of alcohol.
Given these risks, and the difficulty of gauging exactly how much alcohol will impair an individual’s driving, Elizabeth Dugan’s advice is simple: “If you drink, don’t drive. Period.” If you suspect drinking and driving, you should take action immediately.
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Filed under care giving, elder care raleigh nc, Geriatric Care Management, long term care planning, NC, Raleigh, Seniors and driving, Uncategorized

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