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Ask an expert
Q: My eyesight and hearing aren’t as good as they used to be. Are there any tricks or tips I can use to help me adapt and keep driving?
Ask an expert: Pat Moody
Manager of public affairs, AAA Northern New England
A: You are not alone, as declining hearing and vision are both common concerns for older drivers. You can’t turn back the clock but you can get frequent vision and hearing exams and your health care provider may be able to help. Changes to our bodies can happen very subtly and you might be surprised at how much your vision has changed since your last eye exam. Maybe it is time for a new prescription, or time to limit driving at night or in poor visibility conditions. I would also recommend frequently cleaning your windshield on the inside and out, cleaning your headlights and replacing your windshield wipers before they begin to smear. There are a number of options available for self-assessment. One of the best free resources is the AAA Roadwise Review, available by visiting www.seniordriving.aaa.com, which helps identify challenges with your visual, mental and physical condition. To really understand your current driving abilities, consider getting an in-depth driving skills evaluation or clinical assessment by a trained professional.
Q: What are the key things we should be watching for to decide whether my mom should stop driving?
A: Normal aging does affect driving, but there isn’t set age when a person is no longer safe behind the wheel. In fact, most people can safely drive well into old age. When people become unsafe to drive, it’s generally the result of an underlying medical condition or medications, not reaching a certain age. Some things to look for: Suffered a stroke, heart attack or diminished eyesight; experiences difficulty in negotiating sharp turns and intersections; becomes lost on familiar routes; feels nervous or exhausted after driving; drives too slow or too fast; or hesitates over right of way or situations once taken for granted.
Q: My siblings and I would like to talk with someone about our elderly father
and his driving. He sometimes forgets simple things like putting on the blinker or looking
in the rearview mirror when he backs up. He knows he could use some help, but we can’t take
him everywhere he wants or needs to go. He lives in Portland, but likes to drive to Standish
to visit friends. What would you advise?
-Robert in South Portland
Ask an expert: Katlyn Blackstone
Director of Community Services at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging
A: Driving can be a challenge for older Mainers and here are some things to consider. If your father would agree to have his driving skills evaluated, AARP offers a refresher course for older drivers. You can find information on it at www.aarpdriversafety.org. AAA also has options for self evaluation at www.seniordriving.aaa.com.
If you and your family determine your father shouldn’t be driving, there are several alternatives in the Greater Portland area for getting to medical appointments as well as some limited public transportation for errands and shopping.
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