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Driving: When Aging Illness Makes it Difficult

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 3)  

Another way to approach the situation could be through the driverís physician. The physician can evaluate for specific medical conditions that are hindering a personís ability to drive. For example, a person with cataracts may be able to have surgical intervention that could increase their field of vision and improve their driving skills. After a thorough exam, a physician may also decide that a person is no longer able to drive. Hearing the news from a doctor could be easier to accept than when a loved one provides the same message.

Laws vary from state to state regarding continued licensing of older drivers and a quick call to the stateís transportation or public safety office could give more in-depth information. For example, some states require drivers to retest after they reach a certain age or have more frequent eye examinations. Others may require a physicianís letter stating they are physically fit. By the same token, other states are silent on the issue, leaving it up to individual responsibility to decide if they are fit to continue driving. The doctor may also be willing to provide a statement for the family that can be attached to the personís driving record noting restrictions as well.

If he/she fears losing the driverís license as a valid form of identification, all states offer the option to provide a legal ID card that does not include driving privileges. Generally, these IDs are provided by the same office where someone would apply for a driverís license.

Alternate Transportation:

If the decision is made for someone to stop driving, it helps to ease their anxiety that transportation could be readily available. These arrangements could be made within the family or caregiver circle or by researching available transportation in the community. Some ideas for transportation include:

1. Selling the family vehicle and setting aside those funds to pay for public or private transportation.

2. Rotating a schedule with family members or friends to provide ongoing transportation.

3. Qualifying for special transportation in the community based on medical need, especially for medical appointments. (For starting points on where to find these programs, visit

4. If public transportation is available, most communities have para-transit options available for those who are unable to walk to community bus stops. Applications need to be signed by a physician or a social worker  documenting that the person needs door-to-door service.

5. Joining an existing neighborhood carpool or vanpool service.

6. Senior centers may provide transportation directly to and from programs on a regular basis. Additional trips may be available as needed or as scheduled; some fees could apply.

These are only a few of the many alternate transportation methods that are available. It is important to emphasize that it is still possible for someone to be independent and live on their own in the absence of a car and a driverís license. It is natural for someone to be anxious or even depressed about not being able to drive. In order to address these concerns, caregivers and loved ones need to continue communicating about the need for transportation and how those needs can best be met.


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