Aging Parents: Driving, Memory and Homecare Options
In this series:
When to Stop Driving
As our parents age, their activity levels change and at some point, you may feel concern that your parents should no longer drive a car. The decision to take away the keys should not be made lightly. Age should not be the main reason you take away the keys, since everyone ages differently, but you should look at their overall ability. Current medications or illnesses such as diabetic neuropathy, seizure disorders, dementia, stroke and vision problems can also affect driving ability.
If you have concerns, create opportunities to ride with your parent in the car and observe how they drive. Don’t become a back-seat driver, which can cause agitation, but look for warning signs such as:
- Trouble turning or staying in the lanes
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Responding slowly to things happening around them
- Trouble reading signs
- Making small mistakes like not using a turn signal, confusing the gas and brake, etc.
Take notes after the ride about the warning signs you see. Then, it may be time to have a conversation with your parent about their driving. It may help to talk to other family members about what you’ve seen and get their support before starting a conversation with your parent or loved one.
If you do need to take their keys away, it’s important to come up with ways for your parent to stay social. Ask friends or family to pick them up and take them places, like church or the doctor’s office, and look for community-based transportation or congregate meal sites that will give them a chance to interact with other people.
Tiffany Reed, DO, is a geriatric specialist at Piedmont Senior Care and a member of the Cone Health Medical Group.
Memory & Aging
A change in memory or memory loss is a normal part of aging, but other factors can increase the pace of it. Memory loss can be caused by stress, depression or neurological (brain) conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologists and their teams work to assess your current health and to diagnose and/or rule out disease to get patients on the right path toward treatment.
Memory loss can also be caused by certain medications, which is why it’s important to discuss your concerns with your physician. They can help find the root of the problem and create a plan to either reverse the memory loss, prevent future loss, or compensate for deficiencies caused by a neurodegenerative disorder. If you are experiencing frequent memory loss, it is important to discuss it with your doctor, as you may be a candidate for a neuropsychological assessment. A neuropsychological assessment can also be beneficial for patients that don’t have signs of memory loss, as it can provide a baseline that your physician can compare any future tests to.
MaryBeth Bailar, PsyD, is a clinical neuropsychologist with LeBauer Neurology and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.
Home Care Options and Choosing a Facility
For older adults and their families, deciding when to look for in-home help or a full-time care facility can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many different options depending on the type of care needed by the individual, and families can discuss what would be best. Medicare covers certain types of help, such as outpatient physical, speech or occupational therapy after an injury or fall. At home or additional visits not related to an injury may not be covered but can be very beneficial to older adults living at home.
There are many other services available that aren’t covered by Medicare, from assisting with dressing, bathing or cooking, to purchasing groceries. Adult daycare is another option for adults living with a family member that can use additional help during the day. These facilities care for the adults during the day and provide activities that they can participate in. Some also offer doctor’s appointments on the premises.
At some point, an aging parent may need full-time assistance in a skilled nursing facility. Skilled nursing facilities can help adults manage a chronic illness or multiple illnesses, manage medications and provide around the clock care. Talking to your loved one’s primary care physician can help you both decide what is best for them, and the physician can provide recommendations. You can also search for local facilities on Medicare.gov, which ranks each place. Most importantly, tour any place you’re considering with your loved one to see if it feels like the right fit and to include them in the decision-making process.
Bill Plonk, MD, is a board-certified geriatrician with Mebane Medical Clinic and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.