I am at the age where people close to me, parents and some friends are now in the twilight of their lives and decisions need to be made that they won’t or can not see they are having issues with. I know I am no longer the fit agile girl from my youth, but I look in the mirror and am not horrified by what I see. I see a woman looking back at me whose hair is greyer than colour, I have a face that smiles with lines, I have a body that gave birth and there are lumps and bumps one never thinks about when being in your 30’s and 40’s.
The biggest issue I can see for our elderly folk is the driving license, it is something many hold onto without thought for others, it is a single entity that one holds despite ability to drive safely. I know of children of aged parents who go to the Doctor and ask them to remove it and many are angry when this request is refused. I have worked in a Doctors surgery many years back and watched an eighty year old man throw a thousand dollars at the doctor and said it’s all yours if you let me keep my license. It was a shock, the doctor opened his door called the nurse (me) and I was witness to him handing it back and then watching the eye test and other requirements of the medically fit to drive test for the Department of Motor Registration (in Australia) to which this gentleman failed.
I was also the nurse who then had to call his son and get him to come and collect his father and the car whilst he sat in my treatment room sobbing, he was 83 and I sat taking with him about his life and other issues for him to tell me, he and his son hadn’t spoken for 6 months earlier as he asked him to consider stopping driving. This made him angry as he wanted to keep driving to the local shops and to church. I asked him why he put himself and others in danger by doing this as he clearly couldn’t ambulate well – he had a frame, to assist him walking and couldn’t see well enough.
His answer is one that many use to justify the need to keep the license, ” but I’ll lose my independence, I don’t want to rely on my son and others to drive me, but I’ve been driving since I was 13 and I haven’t had an accident. I don’t want to take public transport as there is no bus, train or tram near me.”
Having the discussion about driving with the elderly brings, in most cases an immediate anger response, and instant emotive change from happy to angry no matter the intent of the messenger. How does one go about getting someone you love and care about to admit they are having issues ? Most times saying things out loud can trigger truth in the speaker but the drivers license issue doesn’t.
I look, watch and talk to people and am surprised when I hear children of aging parents say yep, ” I know they are terrible drivers and I won’t let them drive my children around anymore. ” so then begs the question ” have you told your parents this?” 99% of the answer is “God no I don’t want to hurt their feeling” so it’s ok NOT to have your own children being driven by an elderly unsafe driver but it’s ok that they can drive through school areas without being aware they have an issue.” Here is where it doesn’t make sense but as humans we are basic nurturers and do not wish to hurt anyone’s feelings even if it means putting others in the path of danger.
I know of a person who has TIA (Transient ischemic Attacks – or mini strokes) and refuses to tell the doctor and family about them as they knows they will have to give up the license, one of her children just this week has told her they will be discussing this fact after Christmas, she is horrified at the thought, not of the thought she could kill herself or others if she has one when driving, but that she may have to stop driving, umm yes you do.
Then there is stories of deaths by running over spouses, miss identifying the pedals in the car, running cars into shops as they mistook the accelerator instead of the brake, or in cases I have watched driving at 20 kms and then using the gutter as the indicator to stop the car as that’s as far as one can go. There are tales of mistaking car parking spots and ending up on ovals, lawns and other areas, yet this isn’t enough for the person to tell someone they are having trouble. We watch as people use the brake every time they think a car is going to hit them, see a car in their vision and immediately think it is coming at them, these are minor eye issues but they still pose a risk to the general public, nothing worse than driving behind someone who constantly hits the brakes for no reason.
Why this blog and why now? I would like to have any answer from anyone who has had this conversation with a loved one about stopping driving. I don’t want road statistics quoted to me I would like you to contact me and give me clues or stories that got you to stop driving or got a parent or loved one to stop. Keeping in mind some people, country people don’t have any access to hired drivers, taxi’s or public transport.
Please send me ideas and stories, I would love to hear them and read them as this may give me options on how to broach the subject with a loved one who is being observed driving terribly.