How to tell it’s time to stop driving with the Driver’s Assessment Program

Mobility is a key component for any person'as quality of life, but aging can affect mobility skills like driving. There comes a time where mobility, or lack of, can affect a person'a critical driving skills in many ways that are dangerous for senior drivers and bystanders.

Geriatric specialist, Dr. Iris Boettcher and occupational therapist, Angie Kamminga talked about Spectrum Health's new driver's assessment program and how it can help patients transition out of the driver's seat.

Most older individuals who are losing their ability to drive safely don't recognize it or won't admit it. They don't want to give up their independence and control, and this loss can be a life changing event.

For those who have an older parent that might be having trouble behind the wheel, some signs to look out for are:

  • More frequent “close calls”
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Drifting into other lanes
  • Range-of-motion issues
  • Trouble moving foot from gas to break or confusing pedals
  • Frustration of other drivers
  • Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs, pavement markings and pedestrians
  • Slow reaction time

So what's the next step to tell a loved one it's time to stop driving? Bring up the issue of driving, but express care and concern for how hard it can be to even bring it up.

Also, closely monitor their driving to decide whether they just need to brush up on their skills, or give up their drivers license all together.

Watch for changes in their driving habits, general behavior, and health too. If there are any signs of bad health, encourage them to see a doctor to find out what physical or mental problems are going on.

Spectrum Health offers a Clinical Driving Assessment that can help decide if a person is experiencing any driving issues. It's especially helpful with patients that have a slow reaction time, vision problems, or progressive diseases like Alheimer's or Dementia.

The computer simulation is a two hour test that looks at key areas related to physical, mental, and visual factors that are needed for safe driving. Occupational therapists will evaluate the patient's current driving skills, and make suggestions on how they can drive safer or start thinking about giving up their license.

The ultimate goal is to keep patients driving as long as it's safe for the driver and others around them, but doctors will also help with other transportation options if driving is no longer a possibility.

On January 26, Spectrum Health will be hosting a Doctor Dialogue event at the Prince Conference Center. They'll be talking about issues related to caring for aging parents, including dementia, depression, and driving.

If you can't make it to this event, get more information on the Drivers Assessment Program by calling (616) 391-6249.

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