gmhTODAY 21 gmhToday Aug Sept 2018 - Page 48

{ } AGING with an Attitude When Taking the Key is Not Enough Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides living-assistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive one-on-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independently of Visiting Angels. The names of clients and caregivers were changed to protect their privacy. 48 A hh, how we cherish our independence. And for most, the symbol of our independence is the key to a car. For your aging parent(s), the importance of that key is maximized as they age. So what do you do when you see dents on the car, or when Mom gets lost, or when Dad speeds up and slows down for no apparent reason, or when the neighbor jokes about garbage can abuse? Chances are that you’ve already talked to your parent about giving up the keys, reminding them of the risk. You may even have succeeded in getting them to relinquish the key and you are a bit pleased with yourself and grateful that it wasn't even as hard as taking candy from a baby. In fact, it was easy. But then one day, your jaw drops. You see your Dad driving down the road with a piece of someone’s hedge dragging from under- neath his car. So you have that talk again and as he justifies driving, he chuckles and admits that he has three copies of the key. “Don’t they get it? – you ask yourself as your brain throbs. They do get it, but it’s about their freedom; it’s about independence. They want to hang on to it so badly, they deny that with limita- tions they are experiencing, they could get into an accident. What can you do? You might want to consider talking to their doctor or someone they respect and see if they would talk to them. Or you could confidentially write to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requesting that they retest your parent to see if they are capable of driving. Usually your elderly parent will be unable to pass the test and the taking away of their driving privileges will be their doing, not yours. Recently I met a 90 year old who mentioned he was legally blind (and has no driver’s license). So when he told me he drove to town when no one was there to drive him I shared my concern. But he justified his risky outing by noting that he drove down a country road and only maneuvered through a few city streets to get to the store. Immediately, I felt concern for the students who attended the high school down the street as I recalled a report by AAA that stated: “Since older drivers GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 are more fragile, the fatality rates are 17 times higher than those of 25-64 year olds.” They further added that the top three culprits that put elderly drivers at risk —impairments to vision, cognition and motion function—are responsible for higher crash rates.” On the adjacent page, you will find a table shared by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. The bottom line is that it should concern you if your elderly parent is driving and shouldn’t be. What if you’ve tried “everything” and your parent still drives? The gentleman I met told his daughter, “The police won’t put me in jail, I’m 90!” What you should never do is just give up or throw your hands up in the air and say “I don’t know what to do” because it is during that time that something regrettable could hap- pen. Sometimes, you just have to go to extreme measures to do what is right—to stop them from driving. You can choose to avoid making your parent very upset and allow them to risk their life and risk hurting some- one, or you can do what is right. Some clients have “lent the car” to a nephew. Others took the car in for repairs and the mechanic said it was not repairable. Some simply disabled the car. (The Gilroy PD says that if a car is a threat to one’s safety and that of others, and a sibling takes it, it is not necessarily theft). If your parent is somewhat cooperative, you can propose to bring in a caregiver who can drive him/her around and help with other “activities of daily living” and be a companion as well. If none of these work, the Adult Protection Services takes the safety threat much more seriously because if the elderly driver is a threat to himself or others, they must act on it. If called to get involved, they would likely visit with the elderly person and have a serious discussion. And they might order removal of the car. Another friend of mine once told me that a good test to help you know if its time to address the driving ability of one's elderly parent is to consider if you would feel comfortable if your grandchild were in the backseat of the car while they drove. If the answer is no, then it's time to take steps to prevent their driving. It is the right thing to do.