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When it’s Time to Give Up the Keys…

Nervousness and diminished confidence are two of the most common signs that interfere with driving safety. If you are able to recognize your limitations before something terrible happens, that is a sign of strength. Talk to your doctor about this concern. He or she should be able to give an opinion about your ability to drive safely, or refer you to a specialist who can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the skills needed to drive and recommend car modifications or tools to keep you driving as long as possible. You might also opt to brush up on your driving through a refresher course. Safety courses are offered in many communities and online.

Research has shown that after the age of 75, the risk of driver fatality increases sharply, because older drivers are more vulnerable to both crash-related injury and death. Three behavioral factors in particular may contribute to these statistics: poor judgment in making left-hand turns; drifting within the traffic lane; and decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation. Here are questions that should help you decide if it’s time to give up the keys: Do other drivers often honk at me? Have I had some accidents, even “fender benders”? Do I get lost, even on roads I know? Do cars or people walking seem to appear out of nowhere? Have family, friends, or my doctor said they are worried about my driving?

If you’ve been driving your whole life, you probably equate your ability to drive with independence, self-sufficiency, and spontaneity. Age is not an absolute predictor of driving ability, but its impact should not be denied. Some things in life are beyond our control; reflexes, flexibility, visual acuity, memory and the ability to focus all decline with age. If tests indicate that you are no longer fit to drive, do not let your inability to drive lead you to isolation and loneliness. Adjusting to life without a car may be challenging or overwhelming. However, you need to put the safety of yourself and others first.

If you prefer to remain in your own home, hiring a caregiver is a good option at this point. He or she can help with household tasks that have become challenging; he or she can also take care of your transportation needs–to go shopping, visit friends and relatives, see your doctor, attend church, or just enjoy a sunny ride. It may take some time for you to be used to receiving assistance, to trust someone, and to let down barriers of privacy. A caregiver can be a good friend and companion–with services ranging anywhere from a few hours a day to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Look at what home health care agencies in your area can offer; do some research on the type of services and flexibility in terms of hours required.

Driving is a privilege that most people are not willing to relinquish easily. Be positive and think of the benefits that living without a car offers: you save money on the cost of car ownership; giving up driving could mean walking more which is beneficial to your health; and not driving means slowing down; it benefits your mental health by placing less stress on your nervous system. Rest assured that you will manage without being behind the wheel. Just continue to maintain your purpose and your zest for life!

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