Older Driver Safety Awareness Week starts on December 6th. It’s estimated that around 560 older drivers are in serious crashes each day and 20 of those drivers do not survive their injuries. Sometimes, those crashes were preventable. Have you sat down with your mom and talked about her driving habits and health? Would physical therapy services help her continue to drive? It’s time.
Talk to Her Doctor and Schedule an Eye Exam
Your mom’s doctor has great insight into her ability to safely drive a car. If she’s had a heart attack, seizure, or stroke, she needs medical clearance to drive. It may mean working with physical therapy providers to gain strength.
She may be taking prescription medications for blood pressure that impact her ability to drive. Until she knows how the medications affect her, have someone else do the driving.
If your mom hasn’t had an eye exam lately, it’s time. She should have her vision checked each year. Glasses can help her see clearly, but there may come a time when her vision cannot be corrected to a point that it’s safe for her to drive.
Is She Confident?
How is your mom’s confidence while driving? If she’s lacking confidence, ask what worries her the most. Many of the issues that make older drivers nervous can be addressed through physical therapy and updated safety features in newer cars.
Most vehicles now have backup cameras, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, automatic wipers, and high beams as standard equipment. A car that’s higher off the ground, such as an SUV can be easier for your mom to get in and out of.
Physical Therapy Aides can Work on Mobility, Leg Strength, and Motor Skills
Your mom has to be able to get in and out of the car without falling. If her legs are not strong enough to support her at first, she may need adaptive equipment to swivel out of her seat and handles to stand up. A physical therapist can work with her on this.
Grip strength and flexibility are important as you drive. Your mom needs to be able to grip the steering wheel correctly. She needs to be able to move her foot from the brake to the accelerator. If her car is manual, she also needs to be able to operate the clutch and use the shift correctly.
Some newer cars have dials for gear selection, while others still use a lever. She needs to be able to hold the button in while moving that lever. Your mom has to be able to turn the dial. If she can’t do this, she should work with a physical therapist to gain the flexibility and hand strength to manage these important steps of driving a car.
Ask your mom’s doctor about physical therapy. If she’s experiencing difficulty with arthritis pain, mobility issues, and strength, a physical therapist can help. Physical therapy is an important step in making sure your mom is a safe driver.