One of the most difficult decisions dealing with my father-in-laws Alzheimer’s Disease was taking away his driving priveledges. The family agonized over it for many months before taking action. Once action was taken, the burden was lifted for all involved.
I saw an article written by Kelly Greene in the Wall Street Journal which had some sage advice. I’ve posted it below.
“Trying to persuade older family members to give up their car keys isn’t just an emotionally fraught chore. Increasingly, it is a financial issue, too.
“Cars can be expensive to maintain for an elderly person on a fixed income. The cost of auto-insurance claims in later life -even for fender benders and accidents without injuries-can quickly add up. Conversely, if an aging parent decides to move to a place where transportation is readily available, such as an assisted-living facility or continuing-care retirement community, housing costs could escalate.
“If there is compelling evidence that parents shouldn’t be on the road-because of failing eyesight or other physical limitations-then adult children shouldn’t want them to drive. People who are 75 and older have higher crash rates per mile than all groups except 16 to 25-year-olds, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Many states require older drivers, starting in their 60’s or 70’s, to nenew their licenses more frequently than younger drivers, to do so in person or to take additional vision tests. Still, health and driving skill can deteriorate between those renewal dates.
“One possible solution: Take the cash that your relative would spend maintaining a car to get safer, reliable rides through taxi services or non-profit groups. There are a growing number of alternative transportation options aimied at older adults who could continue to live independently if they could just find a good alternative to their own car.
“Like many adult children, Julie Markes, a 47-year-old children’s book author in Brooklyn, N.Y. is struggling to explain the costs of continuing to drive-along with the safety risks-to her 81-year-old mother, Diana Markes, an actress and artist who lives in Los Angeles. Her mother has had at least a dozen accidents since 2005, including a scary one last month in which she pulled out from a stop sign into oncoming traffic and was hit by a car that “she thought came out of nowhere,” the daughter says. Although no one was hurt, the car was totaled and the mother now wants to use the $11,900 insurance check to replace the vehicle.
“Her daughter is urging her to give up the keys, not only because she considers her mother’s driving dangerous, but also because her mother is spending nearly $7,000 a year on car insurance. And that bill, along with her rent, is consuming 100% of the money she brings in from Social Security and “an old investment,” Julie says. She is hoping that, when her mother’s car insurance expires in August, her insurer either won’t renew it or will increase the premiums-forcing her to give up driving.
“Meanshile, Julie is trying to stop her mother from buying a car, and instead is encouraging her to consider using the insurance check for taxis and a passenger service run by an affiliate of ITNAmerica, a non-profit based in Westbrook, Maine. The organization, which operates in 12 states, provides driviners around the clock, seven days a week, to take older adults wherever they want to go. The average fee: about $10 a trip. (Drivers also will help with shopping bags and escort passengers to a doctor’s office.) By contrast, it costs about $16 a day on average in insurance, taxes and other operatin cists simply to keep a car in the driveway, according to AAA.
“Here are some other options for family members:
“1) Hire a “driving therapist.” Driver-rehabilitation specialists can help people who have lost mobility overcome impairments, sometimes with special equipment such as left-foot accelerators or spinner knobs that ease steering. They also perform a toughter job: setting limits on driving times and routes-and letting people know when it is time to give up the keys.
“An initial assessment can take two to three hours and cost at least $200. Additional sessions run at least $100, and patients typically pay out of pocket-thought such therapy can pay off if it keeps a person independent. (In a few states, Medicare may pay for part of the therapy.) To find a driver-rehabilitation Specialists website (www.driver-ed.org) and click on “Find a CDRS.”
“2) Find other transportation services through the federal Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov; 800-677-1116). That service will refer you to your local agnecy on aging, which should have information about any publicly and privately provided transportation for people who are 60 or older.
“3) Find a support network. Older adults are forming grassroots networks in various cities and towns with the goal of staying independent-and some include transportation services. To find listins, go to the Village to Village Network website (www.vtvnetwork.org) and click on “VtVN Directory.”
Good luck with this very hard decision.