Lots of people can keep driving as they get older, but it's important to keep tabs on your loved one's skills to make sure she stays safe. Keep in mind, there are lots of ways to get around that don't involve her getting behind the wheel. Here's what you can do to let her stay mobile without becoming a danger to herself or others.
Keep the car in good shape. You can head off problems by making sure the car is well-maintained. Get it serviced regularly and check the gas, oil, and tire pressure.
Since Jeanne Erdmann's mother was diagnosed three years ago with dementia, she has taken on the daily responsibilities of bathing and dressing her mom, preparing her meals, making sure she takes her medicine, and managing her finances.
"It wears you down. I think it's the grind of having someone there every day who needs more and more attention," says Erdmann, a medical journalist in Wentzville, Mo. Although she says she's happy to be there for her mom, Erdmann acknowledges the toll caregiving ...
Watch for signs of driving problems. Your loved one may be a perfectly safe driver right now. But her driving skills can get worse suddenly, so keep an eye on the situation. Watch for signs of trouble -- getting lost, driving too slowly or too quickly, getting anxious or frustrated, and having close calls or accidents.
Get an independent evaluation. Contact a driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS) or call the department of motor vehicles to see if the state offers driving evaluations for elderly drivers. Some states require driver tests for people who get diagnosed with certain conditions, like dementia. If your loved one passes the test, she should probably take it again in 6 months.
Set consistent limits on driving. For your loved one's safety, you may need to restrict when and where she can drive. For instance, you might ask her not drive after dark or in bad weather. Or you might want her to drive only within town.
Carpool. If you're giving a lot of lifts to your loved one, get in touch with other caregivers. You might find a way to share some of the driving.
Look into free transportation. Hospitals, senior centers, and adult day cares often have services to take elderly people to doctors' appointments, shopping, and other errands.
Evaluate public transportation. Many regions have buses with hydraulic lifts that help people with walkers or wheelchairs. But if a loved one isn't used to taking the bus, you might want to take the trip with him a few times so he gets the hang of it.