NURSE IN THE KNOW: Life without a car
Q: How do I help my parents adjust to life without a car?
A: There are approximately 2.7 million seniors in Canada licensed to drive. While the majority of these drivers are safe, an unfortunate reality of life is that driving can become more dangerous as we age. In fact, the 85+ age group has the highest reported crash rate.
As we age our bodies go through a number of changes, some of which make driving more difficult. Among other changes, we become less sensitive to light, our reaction time slows down, distinguishing between colours becomes more difficult and we experience hearing loss.
Because of the realities of aging, it sometimes becomes necessary to adjust to life without a car.
With seniors accounting for approximately 13 per cent of the Fraser Health Authority population it is clear that many residents must make this adjustment. While this can be a difficult process, there are a number of tips for helping an aging loved one deal with this loss of independence:
It is important to be supportive and encourage your aging loved one to make this type of decision on their own. Mandating the change can only further undermine their independence.
When deciding to give up driving, as much as possible, ensure that the decision is made together. The adjustment can become much easier if a senior makes the decision that it may be time to give up their car.
Research alternative methods
When bringing up the issue with an aging loved one, be sure to have researched alternative transportation options. Include options such as taxis, buses, HandyDART, or even professional transportation packages from services such as senior care providers or private transportation services.
When offering other options, be sure to include schedules, costs and telephone numbers. Make things as easy as possible for your aging loved one.
Make a schedule
A transportation schedule can help ensure that your aging loved one isn’t missing out on their favorite activities simply because they can’t drive. Often, when a senior gives up their car, they end up missing out on the things they love to do simply because they don’t know how to get there.
It is really important that you help your aging loved one get to where they want to go. If that means creating a schedule for all of their weekly activities, make sure you put one together.
In most cases, it will be necessary for family to occasionally drive their aging loved one to activities or appointments. Involving more family members can help ease the burden and can also allow for some quality time with family.
Driving an aging loved one to an activity or an appointment can be an opportunity for an enjoyable visit. Make it a fun outing or an opportunity to see them. Having a positive attitude can make it easier on the driver and will ensure your aging loved one doesn’t feel like they are inconveniencing you.
• Wendy J. Scott (RN, BScN, MA) is the owner and director of human resources of Nurse Next Door’s Burnaby/New Westminster/TriCities office. Reach her at 604-268-6262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.