Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully
This week, I've been talking about seniors, driving and maintaining independence. This topic is incredibly difficult to bring up with family members and friends. What role should the primary care physician play in this situation? Well, frankly, I'm sure we need to be playing a far more active role than most of do. In fairness, often it is difficult to squeeze in all the pure medical issues that an elderly patient has into a routine office visit. Many seniors have multiple chronic issues (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or thyroid disease) and simply addressing the ongoing concerns with these problems more than fills the appointment time.
However, I do think that at least addressing driving issues should be a routine part of annual physicals for our aging patients. There is a wonderful booklet, developed by the USAA Educational Foundation, AARP, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that outlines the physical effects of aging, as well as tips on coping with them so that people remain a safe driver as long as they can. The booklet is called "Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully" Take a look at this booklet, and print it out (in large print) for the senior you are concerned about. Additionally, if you have concerns about a family member's driving, let their physician know. A simple note with specific concerns ("Mom has had several fender-benders in the last year" or "I'm scared for my kids to ride with my father because he darts out into traffic, or drives 40 mph in a 65 mph fast lane") will help direct your parent's physician.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't wait for a serious accident to address issues with seniors driving, and PHYSICIANS- remember to ASK about driving and recommend the booklet Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.