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Keeping your ageing loved ones safe on the road

Being able to jump in the car and drive anywhere is a cornerstone of independence. This is true when we first get our licence, and equally when the time comes that we have to hand in our licence the opposite feeling ensues. As we get older the idea of getting around in other ways – such as by public transport or walking – can feel too difficult or overwhelming. 

Many Australian seniors are great drivers, as they have the benefit of years of experience and a more leisurely pace to life – keeping themselves and those around them safer. However, ageing issues such as deteriorating eyesight and hearing, forgetfulness and dementia, slower reaction times and lessening coordination can all impact driving. As the onset of these conditions can develop slowly, unfortunately many people don’t realise their driving may be affected.

While it’s vital that your ageing loved ones are able to access social connections, hobbies and appointments independently for as long as possible, it can also be a good idea to ensure they can access them safely, or help them to consider new ways to get around. 

Here are three areas to consider and keep an eye on when you are looking out for your loved ones safety on the road.

1. Check how they’re coping on the road

  • Check that they’re on top of their Compulsory Third Party insurance (CTP) obligations. Also called Green Slip in NSW and MAI in the ACT, CTP covers injury to others in the event of an accident.
  • When you’re a passenger, keep an eye on how your loved ones are coping with their driving. Are they missing turns, getting confused or not reacting quickly enough?
  • Explore their driving limits by monitoring how they feel in different situations. Are they nervous driving at night, on freeways, or down winding roads? If so, suggest they avoid driving in these situations where possible.
  • Keep an eye out for close calls. Take notice of any new dents and scratches on the car, and infringement notices – these could be warning signs that could add up to a big risk on the road.

2. Ensure they’re having regular health checks

  • Find out if your loved one has visited a doctor lately for a check up. Are they having regular eyesight and hearing tests? Make sure their glasses prescription is current and they wear their glasses and any hearing aids when they drive.
  • If you’re worried about their driving ability, or any medications they may be taking that could impact their driving, ask their GP for advice. The GP may be able to offer solutions regarding medications and may be able to work your concerns into their next consultation with your loved one.

3. If you’re concerned, start a conversation about options

  • Do some research first. Look into their weekly schedule of appointments, social engagements and hobbies and explore other ways to help them get about. It’s possible their partner is still safe to drive. Or look into public transport options, car pooling, shuttle services, a carer, or organising a driving roster with family and friends.
  • Make the time to talk. Rather than jumping in with an overwhelming statement such as ‘I don’t think it’s safe for you to drive anymore’, try something that shows you’re in this together. For example, ‘If it’s getting more difficult to drive yourself, what’s the next best thing we could do?’
  • Be prepared for an emotional response. It’s only natural that your loved one might feel scared at the prospect of stopping driving, so keep the conversation positive. Mention that talking through options together may be just preparing for a time in the future and that these plans are a way of keeping them safe and independent for longer.

Keep in mind too that when the time comes, home care providers like our partner Five Good Friends offer services that can help with getting your loved ones to the shops and appointments.

The material on the Apia Good Life has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied on as a substitute for advice from a qualified professional.

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