Providing safe transportation is one of the first challenges many families encounter when a senior chooses to age in place. Even if your aging parent can prepare meals and keep up with basic household chores, he may no longer be able to drive safely.
When that time comes, all the familiar routines of life – running errands, visiting friends, even a trip to the post office – become much more complicated. Yet maintaining these habits is so important for your senior’s health and emotional well-being. Fortunately, you have a lot of options when it comes to helping your senior get around.
For many seniors, giving up the car keys feels like losing their independence altogether. It goes without saying that the topic requires sensitivity, but can’t be ignored. You’ll have to decide whether it’s possible for your senior to continue driving at all, and if so, under what conditions. Will limiting travel to daylight hours, familiar neighborhoods, or low-traffic areas ensure everyone’s safety? Or is it time to stop driving completely? You may want to enlist a doctor’s help in making this decision.
If your senior can still do some driving, encourage him to run errands or visit friends mid-morning or in the early afternoon, when traffic is light. Whenever possible, reschedule regular activities with friends and family during the day. Or, offer to drive or help coordinate rides for evening events. You can also hire a caregiver to step in and help with driving once or twice a week, or as often as needed.
When your senior does give up driving, you’ll want to pay special attention to helping her maintain
friendships and community involvement. Talk about what activities she enjoys, whether that’s meeting friends, volunteering, or taking a regular walk through the local park. Friends who still drive may be able to offer rides or you can order a car from a local taxi service or online ride app such as Uber or Lyft. To cut down on the cost of hiring a car, consider having your senior and a neighbor share a ride to the supermarket, for example. Also, in many areas, community services are available from local churches or synagogues. You can also check the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator to find local resources or call your county or city Department of Aging.
Your senior may also need help running basic errands. Getting groceries, for example, isn’t just a matter of driving to and from the store. It also requires carrying and unloading heavy bags. To avoid this problem, you might explore online shopping and delivery services in your area. Peapod in the Northeast and upper Midwest, Envoy in California, and local grocery stores like Safeway, Walmart, and Whole Foods are good places to start.
To keep your senior more involved in these day-to- day activities, consider helping them do their own shopping. Or, if you’re not available, a caregiver can do the driving, plus help your senior make a shopping list, navigate the store, and carry and unpack the groceries. By making your senior an active participant in the process, the right caregiver can help him preserve a sense of independence.
There’s a lot to keep up with when your aging parent stops driving. But together, family, friends, and a caregiver can form the perfect team to help your senior get out of the house, whether for errands, appointments, or fun.