Putting The Brakes On Elderly Driving

Wednesday, 2 May 2012, 1:01:00 AM

Mirror Staff

A rash of recent, fatal car crashes with senior citizens driving has brought attention to a graying population packing our roadways. By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be 65 or older and at least 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive. That’s why Senior Helpers, one of the largest in-home senior care companies with offices in Los Angeles, wants to raise awareness during April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month – by giving families a Senior Helpers Safe Driving Checklist.

“When elders can no longer drive, they may start to feel trapped and out of control of their lives,” says Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers. “We encourage families to monitor their elderly loved ones with our Senior Helpers Safe Driving Checklist. If they notice problems, they can hire a caregiver to drive their loved one. The caregiver is not only the driver but also an extra set of eyes and ears at doctor’s appointments or grocery store visits. Plus, caregivers are great companions who keep seniors social and active.”

If your elderly loved one insists on driving follow The Senior Helpers Driving Checklist:

• Check medications. They can impair driving by making seniors drowsier or more distracted than usual. Recent studies show the average person over the age of 65 takes between two and seven medications a day! Seniors should avoid driving for a few days once they begin a new medication, so they know how the drug affects them. Be sure they consult their physician and pharmacist before starting a new medication, to see if it will affect their ability to drive.

• Have eyes checked. Eyes change with age. Seniors’ peripheral vision narrows, they are less sensitive to light and their eyes lose the ability to focus quickly. Research shows 85 percent of driving is visual and 15 percent is skill. A 60-year-old driver requires 10 times as much light to see as a 19-year-old

• Be aware of sleep issues. About 37 million older Americans suffer from frequent sleep problems. The drowsier behind the wheel, the slower the reflexes

• Reflex and awareness. This can be especially risky if getting behind the wheel of a car. Statistics reveal that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections.

• Check vehicle for signs of damage when he/she is not with you. This can be a good indicator about their ability to drive.

“Driving tests can miss the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s that affect judgment, understanding and memory which can cause accidents on the road,” says Ross. “If it’s time to take the keys away, adult children should reassure their elderly parents they can still see friends and be involved in activities even if they can’t drive. If you hire a caregiver as a driver, it can ease some of the tension when you take the keys away from Mom or Dad.”

Senior Helpers connects professional caregivers with seniors who wish to live at home as opposed to a nursing or assisted living facility.

The company has nearly 300 franchises in 40 states and one Canadian province offering a wide range of personal and companion care services to assist seniors living independently with a strong focus on quality of life for the client and peace of mind for their families.

Senior Helpers strives to be the leading companion and personal care provider that offers dependable, consistent and affordable home care. For more information, visit www.seniorhelpers.com.

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