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Is It Time to Take the Car Keys? - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Is It Time to Take the Car Keys?

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Driving is one of the most independent acts we do as adults, giving us the ability to come and go as we choose. The problem becomes when we're unable to drive responsibly and safely as we age. As a caring family member, it's a tricky but critical subject to broach with aging parents and other relatives.

“There are people who are 85 or 90 who still drive so there's no expected time to stop driving. But it often becomes apparent that as physical disabilities take over, our loved ones shouldn't be driving,” says David Ritterling, owner of Visiting Angels home care agency in Pueblo, Colorado, which provides private, in-home living assistance to seniors.

When it's clear that mom or dad shouldn't operate a vehicle, Ritterling says, we need to tell them in a loving, caring way that for their own safety and the safety of others, it's time to stop.

But there are steps families can and must take to ensure their aging driver's safety long before any talk about taking away the car keys. Ritterling offers the following tips:

1. Have a regular dialogue with mom and dad about driving. Ask how they feel about driving, if they're having any close calls, are fearful or are having trouble driving at night or in other situations.

2. Be alert to age-related medical conditions that affect driving skills. Hearing loss makes it difficult to hear train track warnings or cars honking; macular degeneration and other vision issues can lead to poor ability to see on either side, trouble with sunlight and headlights and an inability to accurately judge speed; dementia can affect seniors' ability to recall where they live or how to reach their destinations; a driver with lack of mobility or severe joint/muscle issues may not be able to turn their head/body to look around in order to safely change lanes; and medication can affect judgment and reaction times.

3. Get in the passenger seat. At least several times a year, go out with your loved ones as a passenger to see how well they're doing behind the wheel. Do you have second thoughts about your safety when mom or dad drives? It's time to have a talk with them.

4. Enlist support. The idea of giving up the car keys can spark emotional confrontations. If your loved one refuses, talk to their physician or eye doctor; a medical professional may be able to talk to their patient and even ask them to turn over the keys. A family member, physician, emergency technician or peace officer can make a written request to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles for a re-evaluation of your senior driver's skills. Contact your local DMV office for information.

5. Find alternative transportation. Mom and dad don't have to be stranded just because they no longer drive. Research transportation services in your city. Senior lift services in southern Colorado, for example, pick clients up curbside. Other towns offer discounted taxi service or vouchers for seniors and many senior centers offer van service for outings and to local community centers.

6. Don't get rid of the car yet. “A lot of people like the feeling that their car is still there,” says Ritterling. If mom and dad shouldn't be driving, keep the car and explore the option of having a caregiver drive loved ones around. Visiting Angels allows caregivers to drive client's cars, which allows your loved one to keep their car but not drive it.  

Visiting Angels is one of the largest, non-medical home care agencies in the country, with 500 franchise locations, and was recently awarded the 2015 ‘Leader in Excellence in Homecare' award. Angels provide help with activities of daily living, including bathing and dressing, personal care, light housekeeping, cooking and transportation.

David Ritterling is owner of the Visiting Angels franchise in Pueblo and vice president of franchise development. To reach Visiting Angels in southern Colorado, contact the Pueblo office, (719) 543-4220, or Colorado Springs office, (719) 282-0180, or visit www.visitingangels.com

This article was produced for and sponsored by Visiting Angels, with offices in Colorado

Springs and Pueblo, Colo. It is not a product of or affiliated with KOAA News 5.

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  • Is It Time to Take the Car Keys?

    Is It Time to Take the Car Keys?

    From Our Sponsors Driving is one of the most independent acts we do as adults, giving us the ability to come and go as we choose. The problem becomes when we're unable to drive responsibly and safely as we age. As a caring family member, it's a tricky but critical subject to broach with aging parents and other relatives. “There are people who are 85 or 90 who still drive so there's no expected time to stop driving. But it often becomes apparent that as physical disabilities take over, our...
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