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Making decisions about when to stop driving

hannah.jpgJane Gross wrote in the New York Times recently about the angst primary care doctors face when confronting a patient and family about whether an aging patient should still be driving. Questions raised are:

  • When is it time for someone with physical or cognitive problems to give up the car keys?
  • Who makes that decision?
  • How can it safely and compassionately be enforced?

Car keysGross provided a link to a comprehensive and thoughtful handbook published by the American Medical Association in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Recently updated, the “A.M.A. Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers” can be accessed by doctors and also family caregivers.

The guidebook has covers the following important topics:

  • Assessing a patient’s driving ability;
  • Medications and medical conditions that impair mobility, vision, hearing, reflexes and judgment;
  • Tips on having the conversation with patients and caregivers;
  • Advice on how to avoid isolation and dependence when driving is no longer sensible or safe;
  • A doctor’s ethical responsibilities regarding driver assessment;
  • State-by-state guidelines for reporting drivers to the state department of motor vehicles, which has the ultimate say in who remains on the road.

Family caregivers who are worried about whether their elderly loved ones should still be driving should review these materials and consult with the primary physician to inquire about driver assessment.

Should Doctors Stop Patients From Driving? Jane Gross, New York Times, Feb. 22, 2011, last accessed on March 2, 2011.

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