Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When Elderly Drivers Must Stop Driving -

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase

In my many years of reporting about the elderly, I found little that caused doctors more angst than confronting a patient and family about driving. When is it time for someone with physical or cognitive problems to give up the car keys? Who makes that decision? And how can it safely and compassionately be enforced?

Late into the fray, but with a comprehensive and thoughtful handbook, is 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” is an invaluable addition to the literature on the subject, directed to its own members but accessible and informative to the layperson as well.

The guidebook has plenty of information about 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; discussion of a doctor’s ethical responsibilities; and 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.

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