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Older drivers

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Traditions: Really Check in With Your Neighbors and Relatives

On Friday night, we gathered with neighbors old and new to celebrate a cherished tradition – our annual progressive dinner.  Traditionally, we begin the year.  We find out about the new babies, weddings and graduations to come.  We learn what colleges the children will attend, and where soon-to-be college graduates will start their careers.  We also check in on aging neighbors to find out about their health scares, their difficulties, the loss of their loved ones.  After moving from house to house for salads, and main courses, we end up with more wine and sweet treats to reminisce about dinners past.  How many have we had?  No one can remember.  But by the end of the evening, we’re looking forward to next year’s dinner, and assigning tasks to make it happen.

Continuing this tradition is important to my family and my neighborhood because it allows us to connect with our neighbors, to get to know them when times are good so that we can help each other when times are not so good.  Without our traditional yearly gathering, we might not realize when our neighbors need our help.

In my practice, I see many people who see their aging or ill family members and friends at the holidays and realize that all is not well.  Sometimes, all has not been well for so long that those family members are now in crisis.

If you are visiting family members who are aging or ill, take the time to talk with them to find out about their health.  Are they seeing a doctor?  What medications are they taking?  How do they keep track of their medications on a daily basis?  Ask them if they have a healthcare proxy or advance directive for healthcare?  Who will make healthcare decisions for them if they are not able?

Although it can be difficult to have a conversation with parents about their finances, ask them if they have appointed someone to make financial decisions for them if they are not able.  Look around the house and see if there are stacks of unopened bills.  Find out if they have long-term care insurance.  Ask where their important financial and legal documents can be found.  If they haven’t appointed anyone to make decisions for them, urge them to do that while they still can.

If your aging family members are still driving, ride with them to see if they are still able to drive safely.  Are they stopping at the stop signs?  Do they forget to look before making a turn?  Do they still remember how to get to places they have been to many times before or do they forget where they are going?  If they are having trouble driving, would a driving school help?  Or, can you help them find transportation so they won’t need to drive anymore?

With married couples, try to talk with each one alone.  Sometimes couples get so good at covering for each other, you don’t realize that one of them might be suffering from dementia.  If one of the couple is ailing, find out how the well spouse is coping.  Is he or she eating and sleeping right?  Is he or she getting help in the home so he or she can get out to see friends, or just get some time to rest and recharge?

Look in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard.  Is the food in the refrigerator or cupboards moldy or out of date?  Are they going to the grocery store on a regular basis?  If you suspect that they are not eating right, is there a meals-on-wheels program that they might qualify for?

I hope that you will enjoy holiday traditions with family, friends, and neighbors this year.  Will you take time to talk with your family and friends to see whether they might need help in the coming year?

Happy Holidays!

Patti Elrod-Hill

 

 

 

 


Saturday, December 13, 2008

DWE or Driving While Elderly

As the parent of a 16-year-old soon to be licensed driver, I think a lot about whether she will be safe on the roads -  and whether others who have to share the road with her will be safe!  At the same time, I worry about whether my aging clients are safe on the roads – and whether others are safe on the same roads with those aging drivers. In my practice I am regularly told stories –some funny and some frightening – about aging or impaired drivers. 

 

For my 16-year-old, the ability to get in the car and drive wherever she might like to go signals the ultimate freedom.  For my aging clients, the thought that they will no longer be able to drive wherever they want signals the end of that same freedom.  That is why the issues involved with the elderly drivers are so difficult and why we need to consider the options carefully before taking any action.

 

The families of the elderly often ask how they can get Mom or Dad to stop driving.  The story is usually that Dad or Mom runs stop signs, gets lost, or drives 25 miles an hour while other drivers zip by them at 75 miles an hour.  How do we know when its time to take away the keys?  And how do we take those keys away without a fight?

 

Clearly, there is no magic age at which driving skills decline, so what are some of the signs that Mom or Dad should either curtail some of their driving or stop altogether?

 

The website Aging Parents and Elder Care has a list of signs that a driver’s skills may be declining.  Among those signs are the following:

  

* Driving at inappropriate speeds, either too fast or too slow

 

* Having one or more near accidents or near misses

 

* Getting lost repeatedly, even in familiar areas

 

http://www.aging-parents-and-elder-care.com/Pages/Checklists/Elderly_Drivers.html

 

 

If Mom or Dad is showing some of the signs of declining skills, try to determine whether there is a medical reason for the decline that may be corrected with proper medical care.  Similarly, determine whether the elder may be able to modify their driving to accommodate the decline. 

 

Once you have determined that the problem is severe and the elder must completely stop driving, how can you get them off the road?

 

Here are a few suggestions:

 

* Confront Mom or Dad and let them know that you are afraid that they will injure themselves or others if they continue to drive.  Help them find alternative transportation options.  For help with this conversation, check out The Hartford’s Family Conversations with the Older Driver at:

 

http://www.thehartford.com/talkwitholderdrivers/having/main.htm

 

 

* Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles or have your loved ones doctor contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to report that the driver is no longer safe.

 

* Finally, you may have to either disable or take away the car. 

 

To help older drivers continue to drive as long as possible, consider driving classes offered through AARP.  You can find classes near you by checking out the AARP website at:  http://www.aarp.org/family/housing/driver_safety_program/


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The Elrod-Hill Law Firm,LLC assists clients with Estate Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid, Elder Care Law, Probate, Special Needs Planning and Pet Trusts in the North Atlanta area including the counties of Dekalb, Gwinnett and Fulton.



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