Driving a car. It’s one of the most important things we do to maintain our freedom. Yet, at some point in time, it can also be one of the most dangerous things we do.
Yet, how do you tell an elderly parent you’re worried about his or her capabilities and for the safety of those around them when they are behind the wheel? How do you know when they’ve reached a point where the keys should be taken away for good?
While there isn’t a specific test or indicator that will pinpoint the exact time, there are things you can watch for and evaluate the situation carefully.
1. Common tasks begin to slip
This stretches beyond “where’s my keys.” When a person has trouble remembering which key fits in the front door or where common household objects are kept, more difficult tasks like driving shouldn’t be attempted.
2. Vision slips away
When was the last time your parent visited the eye doctor? Many eye problems – cataracts, macular degeneration – can all impact not only driving but daily life too.
3. Judging spatial relationships
Have you noticed your loved one tripping more? Or misjudging distances in their daily movements – placing a glass in the wrong area, so it tips over, or dropping things because they misjudge how far away a table is? This is pivotal when driving a car and judging the distance around you.
4. Trouble with numbers
Every day we do small little math problems – figuring 20 percent off at the store, tracking when bills need to be paid during the month, balancing a checkbook. Diminishing problem-solving skills can be a sign that processing skills are weakening.
5. Concept of time
In some cases, the day becomes night, and night becomes the day for a person suffering from dementia. They may begin to do tasks at odd hours or avoid certain tasks altogether.
6. Losing the ability for words
Have you ever grasped to find the right word to describe a situation? As we age, that ability can become more regular and can stretch into simple words we know and use every day.
7. Difficulty with memory
As we age, memory loss is often a part of the process. When a person suffers from dementia, it’s easy to get disoriented, especially in challenging situations. Making split decisions can become more difficult, making reaction times while driving that much more difficult.
What were you thinking? If you have children, you’ve probably uttered that phrase a time or two. When children use poor judgment, it’s because they are still learning about the world around them. When the elderly use poor judgment, it can be a sign of a deeper problem.
9. Loses things regularly
We all misplace things from time to time. But when it becomes a regular practice, and you find things in unusual places, it could be a sign that it’s time to step in.
Not only can behavior begin to change as we age, so to can our attitude. If your loved one becomes moody, begins avoiding situations to stay away from old friends, and develops an anti-social manner, it can be a sign of dementia.