Is It Time To Take the Car Keys Away?

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How to respond when families suspect that cognition or physical frailty is impairing an elder person’s ability to drive. Professional Geriatric Care Managers are prepared to provide direction on how to address driving issues with older adults and how to initiate those conversations.

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Professional Geriatric Care Managers help families with these difficult decisions in removing unsafe drivers from our communities and can suggest options that are effective and appropriate as well as respectful to the elder person.

This week in Huntsville, Alabama Mr. H., a frail 82-year-old retired engineer diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia, contacted a local car dealership to request that a new vehicle be delivered to his home. The salesman arrived less than an hour later in a luxury car eager to head back to the dealership to complete paperwork. The course of events that followed resulted in a preventable hospitalization for Mr. H. Last week in a Los Angeles grocery store parking lot a 100-year-old driver accidentally backed his car into a crowd and injured 11 people.

Once again, we learn that driving at later ages is a serious concern for communities. What can families and friends do? It is a delicate and complex question. The challenge is how to respond when they suspect that cognition or physical frailty is impairing an elder person’s ability to drive. Reporting a driver to the DMV is one option, but it might not be as effective as taking creative steps that protect others on the road as well as the older frail driver.

Professional Geriatric Care Managers help families with these difficult decisions in removing unsafe drivers from our communities and can suggest options that are effective and appropriate as well as respectful to the elder person. Geriatric care managers can also help elders who are unfairly being requested to stop driving only because of their age, not their abilities. Byron Cordes, President of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers cautions that “creating a culture that makes generalizations related to age is not intuitive and as such driving for older adults should not be all or nothing.”

Simply unhooking the battery or taking away the keys are not sustainable interventions to address driver safety. Communication is the key when talking to an aging parent or loved one. Professional Geriatric Care Managers are prepared to provide direction on how to address driving issues with older adults and how to initiate those conversations. A professional geriatric care manager may be searched by city and state or zip code at http://www.caremanager.org.

In 2009 over 187,000 older adults were injured in automobile accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This amounts to 500 senior adults being injured every day. The CDC reports that drivers above the age of 75 are most at risk with greater risks noted after age 80. This can largely be attributed to physiological changes in older adults to include vision and hearing impairments along with slowed motor reflexes. Geriatric care managers are knowledgeable about the impact of age on a person’s ability to function at many levels and can offer assessments and resources. Locate a Geriatric Care Manager near you at http://www.caremanager.org.

About NAPGCM
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families. Geriatric Care Managers are professionals who have extensive training and experience working with older people, people with disabilities, and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist older adults, who wish to remain in their homes, or can help families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of geriatric care management and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad.

A Geriatric Care Manager is a health and human services expert, such as a social worker, counselor, gerontologist, or nurse, with a specialized body of knowledge and experience related to aging and care issues. A Geriatric Care Manager assists older adults and persons with disabilities in addressing issues related to their health, psychological, functional, and legal/financial status. In addition, the GCM coordinates ongoing care and serves as an experienced guide and resource for families of older adults and others with chronic needs. The GCM respects the autonomy of the individual, services with sensitivity, and supports the dignity of each individual.

Geriatric care managers who are members of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) are committed to adhering to the NAPGCM Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of professional geriatric care managers, please visit http://www.caremanager.org.

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Kaaren Boothroyd
NAPGCM
520.881.8008
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