Happy Father’s Day, Dad: Can I have the car keys please?Written by Debra Sorensen | | email@example.com
It’s become an epidemic, just as we thought it might: Baby Boomers became a sandwich generation and, while we fondly recall trying to convince dad to loan us the car keys, it is becoming more necessary and problematic to actually coax keys away from aging parents.
Noticing the increasing number of dings in our folks’ car fenders, doors and bumpers makes us shudder at the thought of having “the talk.” Families argue over whether or not it’s really necessary. They mimic dad and mom’s excuses: “There hasn’t been an accident … yet.” “I’ll know when to give up driving.” “You’ll take my car keys out of my cold, dead hands.”
It is a rite of passage, a badge of freedom, when we earn that driver’s license, and it is the beginning of the end of independence when we have to give it up. Public transportation being all but nonexistent in this area is one of many issues. And fear of our parents’ wrath seems to stand in the way of doing what we know is the right thing.
When is it the right time? Well, kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous tells you: If you are wondering if there’s a problem then there’s probably a problem.
Talking to your parents’ physician is a good place to start. Often the response from the physician will be, “You mean they still drive?” Doctors don’t notice who brings someone to the appointments, whether the patient is driving themselves or not, and might not want to broach the subject event if they are reaching an age when driving may become problematic. In Ohio, a physician can write a letter or fill out a Bureau of Motor Vehicles form recommending a person be retested, regularly tested or not be allowed to drive. But how can he or she objectively come to that conclusion, unless there is a clear and definitive diagnosis which precludes driving — such as advanced dementia?
Options for objectivity
In Toledo we have two programs for evaluating a person’s ability to drive: One at Flower Hospital, (419) 824-1968, and one at University of Toledo Medical Center, (419) 383-5040, in which occupational therapists evaluate a driver’s reflexes, cognition, problem-solving and on-road driving ability using a vehicle with a brake on the passenger side.
Medicare covers 80 percent of this evaluation and a secondary insurance should pick up the remainder. This evaluation results in a written report and recommendations by the therapists to the physician, client and family, and may include suggestions such as driver’s retraining, limiting driving to certain conditions (daytime, close proximity to home, good weather) or may recommend no driving. The program cannot revoke a person’s license, but the recommendations go to the physician.
If your physician is reluctant to make such a referral or address the issue, consider putting your request in writing and copying the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. One reluctant physician contacted the daughter of a client and told her, “Now that it has been put into writing, I am legally responsible if your father should have an accident.” Transportation solutions
So mom and dad can no longer drive. Now what?
Senior Centers Inc. offers transportation services for seniors, (419) 242-9511, is a low-cost option that can help seniors and disabled persons receive cab and ambulette rides twice a month to physician appointments. Some senior centers have transportation to and from activities. TARPS is another option, (419) 382-9901.
If your parents are fortunate enough to have some assets available, hiring a companion service can be a good option, especially since they probably should have someone in attendance at physician appointments. The number of companion home health agencies in this area has tripled in the past 10 years. Shop around and interview several before settling. Cost can vary from $15 to $22 per hour with two- to four-hour minimum scheduling. The companion can also provide some light housekeeping, companionship, cooking assistance and other services.
The important thing is not to play ostrich on this issue. Too often we see people driving who should probably not be. Road rage remains problematic, putting seniors and others at even more risk if they are not vigilant drivers. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles often passes someone’s driver’s license renewal by giving prompts on the vision portion — the only real screening portion of the renewal process (“Don’t you see the flashing light on the right side there?” I’ve heard with my own ears while standing in line at the BMV).
Here’s a clue: If a person has trouble walking, is suffering from short-term memory loss, has a progressive chronic illness or falls frequently, they might not be safe driving.
Please, talk to someone. Call the Area Office on Aging at (419) 382-0624, your parents’ physician or contact a private geriatric care manager (www.caremanager.org).
While it may not be the Father’s Day gift he was expecting, showing your love by protecting your dad and others could be the best gift of all. The only thing worse than living through taking dad’s car keys away would be attending his funeral, or another’s, caused by a fatal auto crash.
Debra Roidl, MSW, is a certified care manager in the Toledo area. Read more about her eldercare services at www.independentcaresolutions.com. Debra is available to speak on a wide array of topics. You can reach her by calling (419) 367-8835 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.