Considering when to stop driving is difficult as it can mean the loss of independence. If you are concerned memory loss is putting you and others at risk, here are some tips.
Driving and aging, dementia or other memory loss conditions are hard topics to discuss with loved ones. When to stop driving is a difficult thing to consider for yourself, as it can mean the loss of independence. It may be harder still when you realize your dementia or memory loss is putting you and others at risk behind the wheel. Here are some tips for senior drivers.
When should I stop driving?
There is no set age for stopping driving, but there are many issues to consider. People over 70 are more likely to have automobile accidents than other age groups.
“As we age, our bodies change. We lose muscle flexibility and tone, hearing and vision aren’t as sharp, and reaction time slows,” said Rachel N. Hart, D.O., geriatric medicine and memory specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “It’s important to keep yourself and other people safe.”
Driving and aging
- Anticipate the changes: “You should keep going to your doctors for regular checkups. Ask questions and be honest about your symptoms and experiences,” Dr. Hart said.
- Family conversations: If a family member approaches you about your driving, try to keep an open mind. There are ways to keep you safely behind the wheel longer.
- Screenings: Your doctor can help you find a driving fitness evaluation. This sets a baseline for your driving skills and can identify weaknesses.
- Interventions: You might be eligible for equipment or training to help you feel more confident and comfortable behind the wheel, such as hand controls or low-effort steering wheels.
- Staying engaged: It’s easy to feel disconnected from your community if you no longer can drive. Look for ways to get out and about safely such as ride-hailing or ride-sharing programs.
There are local resources to help you with all of these strategies.
For people who have been unable to drive a vehicle due to neurological condition or for those who have experienced age-related changes in function, the loss of independence can be devastating.
The Norton Hospital Driving Assessment Program, a service of Norton Neurosciences & Spine Rehabilitation Center, assists in returning individuals to safe, independent driving.
Driving assessments are given by a licensed occupational therapist certified as a driving rehabilitation specialist, stroke rehabilitation specialist and low vision specialist. The therapist assesses vision, visual-perceptual skills, physical ability (reaction time, strength and mobility) and cognitive skills (attention, decision-making, memory). You can visit our website to learn more about this program.