Do you have residents who are driving and probably should not be driving?

While most individuals who live in senior living communities have quit driving, not all have.  The question a senior living community has to face from time to time is how to evaluate the quality of a residents ability to drive and when management should intervene. This is an area that generates much controversy about whether to allow older adults to drive.  However, there are complications with forcing an older adult to stop driving.  One problem is that there are parts of the country, especially here in Southern California, that do not have adequate transportation options.  Another problem is figuring out how to know when someone is no longer able to drive safely.

How old is too old to drive?

Quiz question (answer True or False): Most older adults give up driving when they are no longer safe to drive. This is a trick question.  Most older adults do give up driving when they are no longer safe to drive.  The population that does not typically give up driving when they should are the adults with dementia.  The disease process robs them of the ability to make good decisions about their abilities to drive safely. Some cities in Orange County, California have transportation options for seniors- either an access bus system, taxi vouchers, friends, family, or volunteers.  But these can be very inconvenient options.  People have told us that they have to wait up to four hours for the Access bus to arrive.  And many seniors don’t like taking a taxi.  For the individual with dementia, there are additional issues with using public transportation.  They may not remember how to take the subway or bus, or maybe never learned how.  And to start a complicated task like using public transportation, when under the challenge of dementia, would be very difficult for the individual.  Who would train that individual to learn the system?  Who would ensure the safety of the individual to travel?

Driving Assessments

What we have discovered in the many years of providing driving assessments, is that the only way to determine whether an individual is safe to drive is by doing a driving assessment by an occupational therapist who also specializes in driving rehabilitation.  Oh, sure, you can use one of the computerized tests, but that is not the same as driving in a real car. Driving assessments in 3D do have their risks- we put our lives in the hands of the driver, and stay vigilant to ensure we will prevent accidents before they happen.  This is a frequent occurrence!  People are referred to the driving assessment center for a reason- they already have a medical issue that the doctor feels concerned enough to refer for an assessment. In the coming weeks we will address specific disease processes, and how they affect the individual’s ability to drive safely.  This will help you as a senior living operator better identify residents who are at risk.

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