Aging, memory impairment and driving

Sue Daugherty
Mar 23, 2010

 

If you drive, you probably don't give much thought to getting from here to there — unless you're filling up your gas tank, of course. It's something that's easy to take for granted. As you age, this will change. For an older person, driving is the difference between living and existing. Giving up the car is a senior's worst nightmare — just as it would be for anyone with a drivers license.

A column in automedia.com entitled, "Senior Drivers, Time to Give Up the Keys?," cites the following numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "The crash rate per mile increases slowly at age 65; then, at 85, it soars to a rate nine times higher than that for all drivers between 25 and 69. The only age with a worse crash rate per mile are 16-year olds."

To me there is an interesting correlation here. Driving accidents soar at the same age (85 and older) as incidences of memory impairment surface. The Altzhiemer's Association estimates that half of those over the age of 85 have some type of dementia.

To illustrate what this could mean for us at a local level, here is some demographic information about Erie County.

Between 2005 and 2010 the number of people age 80 to age 89 is projected to increase by 174. For those age 90 and older that age group also will grow by 209. (Source: Profiles & Projections of the 60 + Population in Erie County, Ohio; Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University of Ohio). Half of them could be memory impaired drivers — provided their physical health allows them to still get behind the wheel.

If the driving ability of you, or someone you know, is deteriorating, here are a couple to things you should know. The American Medical Association recommends two tests that a family doctor can administer in an office to measure cognitive function. One is called the "Clock Drawing Test" and the other is called the "Trails B Test." They take about five minutes to do and will indicate whether or not the person's cognitive abilities are failing. For a more in-depth medical assessment, older adults can get what's called a "Geriatric Assessment." Cleveland's University Hospitals Case Medical Center  Foley Elder Health Center (216-844-6300) offers the service, and it's covered by Medicare insurance.

There is no simple answer, but one thing is certain.

It's an issue worthy of an efficient and effective means of intervention — for everyone's sake.

Comments

Anonymous

Now you're talking! This blog has some serious potential!

Anonymous

Fanciful idea: Standard equipment on every senior’s car should be a device that requires him or her to solve a cognitive puzzle before it will start.

Senior mobility has already become a problem for many communities. And with the aging of the boomers the predicament will only increase in stature. If they cannot or do not drive themselves, who will transport them to doctor’s and dentist appointments, as well as grocery shopping, church, etc.?

Anonymous

Any thoughts on what friends can do about someone who is dangerous behind the wheel? Early-stage dementia as well as mini strokes (TIA's) and other challenges can short-circuit the person's ability to recognize that they have a problem. It's a hard situation all around, knowing that a friend is putting her life as well as others in danger. She can't see that she's not making good safety choices in many areas, including driving, even when we talk with her about it. What can I do to help the situation?

Anonymous

I have an 82 yr. old relative and there's no doubt that he has impaired hearing. Though I've repeatedly asked over several months, he won't even get a hearing test.

As the sound on the TV is blasting, (hurting my ears) he's told me that there's nothing wrong with his hearing.

IMO his hearing limitation is a serious potential driving hazard for himself, his passengers and others.

Sensible suggestions?

Thankfully, since he can barely use a cell phone, he doesn’t practice cell phone use while driving. (I’ve almost been whacked by a few of those morons. GET A $20 HEADSET YOU IDIOT!)

Anonymous

Finally:

Along with its huge member and product dollars, AARP gets millions of dollars in Federal funding. (Your tax dollars at work.) It's one of the largest lobbying groups in D.C.

Seniors vote early and often. Good luck on getting the politicos to stop listening to them.

Also, when seniors can’t drive who will provide the personalized transportation to get them to the doctor, grocery shopping, etc.?

Anonymous

I read at least a dozen stories a year about elderly drivers who mistake the brake for the accelerator, usually turning a bulding into an unintended drive-thru. One old man plowed through a farmer's market a few years ago, injuing dozens and killing several.

I once followed an old woman on Rt. 6 from Sandusky to Huron. She drove 20 MPH the whole way, weaving back and forth over the double yellow line, brake lights glowing the whole five miles. She obviously had one foot on the brake and one (barely) on the gas.

How is it that people pulled over for DUI know which pedal is the brake, but the elderly can't remember? The elderly are the most dangerous drivers on the road, especially to themselves.

Anonymous

When your loved one kills or hurts someone, your thoughts about mobility will probably change. Talk with law enforcement, or others that have happened on the gruesome scene of a fatality - it is a mind numbing experience to hear innocent people wail as they view a dead loved one. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Just as drunk driving is wrong, so is letting dad or mom kill someone with their car, just because of vanity reasons.

Anonymous

(Restaurant scene) Edgar: "My hands ached so bad I could hardly get dressed. Mildred: "My arthritis was so active, my neck could barely rotate. Gene: "Well my knee wouldn't bend again today." Gracie: "Good thing we can still drive!"

Anonymous

There are county shuttle services for the aged. Why would anyone want someone on the highway who is a hazard to themselves or others? THAT IS WRONG.

Gulliver

TO WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS: If you know the older adult's family or the older adult's doctor contact them and tell them what you have witnessed re: this older person and their ability to process thoughts, use good judgement.

If this is your own parent, write the doctor in advance of the visit. Ask him/her to administer the "clock drawing test" and the "Trails B Test" the next time they see your parent.

If your parent is refusing to make a dr. appointment, it's time to have a heart to heart talk and tell them that you are concerned about them. Make the appointment while you are visiting and take the day off of work so you can go with your parent.

Remember to send that letter to the Dr. in advance of the visit. Request that he/she perform the "clock drawing test" AND the "Trails B Test".
I also want to encourage you to have your parent receive a "Geriatric Assessment".

You can also report your concerns to the Ohio Highway Patrol. They will ask you to fill out a report. They will send the older person a letter notifying them that they have to be tested. I do believe the older person has the right to know who submitted the report. So the highway patrol may disclose who reported the older person.

Anonymous

This is relevant stuff! Now the rubber is meeting the road! Keep it up! We really need honest that address the truth.

Anonymous

Should read "honest topics that address the truth."

Rick Studer

To “Re Sues Blog”

Grammar is still problem for you… At least you’re trying, keep up the good work!

Rick Studer

To “Re Sues Blog”

Should read "Grammar is still a problem for you… "

Anonymous

Ms. Daughterty:

Thanks for some productive ideas.

For B. B. boomer:

Firstly, not every county or community has shuttle services. Secondly, taxpayers are currently balking at higher taxes for health and welfare entitlement services. Wait for when the boomers hit the senior levels in mass.

Just this year, the first boomers, born in 1946 began turning sixty-two yrs. of age and became eligible for Social Security. Statistically, they are reaching this milestone at the rate of approximately three hundred per hour.

There are an estimated seven-eight million boomers. Will boomers be driving other boomers around in county provided shuttle buses?

The knee jerk simple answer of ‘let government do it’ is rapidly becoming a hollow if not an expensive phrase.

Anonymous

You are an idiot. Go take a short walk off a long pier.

Anonymous

That's about how much sense you make.

Anonymous

At last a blog that addresses a serious issue without all the mean spirited afterthoughts. We really do need to consider the need for alternative transportation for our aged. Even I will need assistance at some point. Hopefully , family will step up and help. We have to take care of each other. The Gov't can not and likely will not be there for us!.

Anonymous

Why don't you quit stalking that chick re sues blog and actually post a comment on the article?

Anonymous

This is just another special interest group playing with numbers.Just look at the Daily Log and tell me Seniors are the ones who are a danger on the road.The log is full of DUI's,(Booze and Drugs) driving under suspension,no operators license,reckless operation, speeding,no registration and a dozen other violations and NO SENIORS doing these.It seems to me that seniors are the age group with 100% insurance,registration and operators license.In other words we are the one's obeying the laws.Take seniors off the road and watch the tax base for road repairs and economy (from less shopping trips) go straight to hell.

Anonymous

I think.. I think this should..umm...I believe that... uh...shoot, I forgot what I was gonna say.

Anonymous

The majority of DUI arrests are not the result of an accident, but errant driving such as no lights, weaving, etc.

So how is it that a senior driver who is NOT under the influence can't tell the brake from the gas, doesn't realize they've been driving for miles with their turn signal on, drives 15-20 MPH below the posted speed limit, can't stay within marked driving lanes, and pulls out in front of other motorists as if they are oblivious to traffic?

It's unfortunate the police don't pull more elderly drivers over for poor driving. Most aged drivers never get a ticket until they actually have an accident. By then, it could be too late for the senior or the person they hit.

Anonymous

It's none of your business how slow anyone drives as long as they are not breaking the law by driving under the minimum limit.If you don't like it,have the law changed.

Anonymous

That last post; if you drive under the minimum posted speed limit, you are breaking the law. Understand?

Anonymous

Short walk, long pier :)

Anonymous

I still remember the day we had to take Mom's keys away. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. But we couldn't allow her be a danger to herself and others. We were lucky, and her friends helped out a lot and would come and pick her up and take her places when we couldn't.

There are resources out there for Seniors. Many retirement communities have their own shuttle that will take people where they need to go, and there is always the Transit Service, Family, Friends ect.

I know there are a Million reasons why Seniors should "be able" to continue to drive reguardless of their ability, and One very good reason why they shouldn't, they are putting themselves and everyone else at greater risk. If you don't believe that you should have been with my husband the day some "Sweet Little Old Lady" was out for a morning drive and going the wrong way on RT 20. If he would have decided to pass the Semi in front of him he it may have left his 3 children without a father and another family without their Grandma/Mother.

Anonymous

The point I've been making my friends, it that potentially there will be some 75 - 78 million seniors and many of them will be 'on the road.'

Writing that mentally incapacitate seniors should not drive is well and good and I agree. But when there are likely to be tens of millions of them with autos, how will our mobile society handle the problem?

The senior driving problem is somewhat currently manageable because of their relative low numbers. But what’s to done when the seniors outnumber their younger counterparts?

In some reports I’ve read, drivers speaking on cell phones are almost as dangerous as drunks behind the wheel and yet where’s the statewide law (and enforcement) against phoning while driving?

Anonymous

No argument about the cell phone. I feel you 100%. Bad driving is wrong regardless of any age. Just as laws have changed for new drivers, laws need to change for those that are aged. Facts prove that re-testing or some other qualifications are needed. Badly. I urge you to check traffic accidents reports, & see who is usually cited for bad driving when it involves 2 or more vehicles. Most of the time grandma or grandpa caused it. Being 50 I know that any new law like this will touch me also. So be it. Or highways need to be safer.

Anonymous

Sue what you fail to mention is the fact the Ohio BMV is also at fault. They renew a elderly persons drivers license no matter what. Repeatedly as i am at the BMV i see workers pass the elderly people that fail the vision and hearing test. Elderly people pull out in front of people and cut people off constantly as if they are the only cars on the road. They need tested properly and more often. And yes they are just as dangerous and irresponsibale as a drunk driver, because both a drunk driver and dangerous elderly driver knows they shouldnt be on the road but they do it anyway.

Anonymous

They said IF they are not driving under the minimum...DUH

Rick Studer

Art Vandalay…. What? Is drunk school on summer recess? Pretty harsh words considering you’re the only guy in town with personalized yellow license plates. Take it from me Art, hot chocolate taste good anytime of day…

Anonymous

You act as though it about you. It is not. Safety on the highway means everyone. Drunks, drugs, speeding, & yes YOU the senior. Habitual poor driving is wrong & shouldn't be tolerated on our roads. You have no entitlement, to hurt others . SENIORS NEED RE-TESTED!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous

Look @ the post; it says, If you don't like it." Just like an old person that is stubborn, you don't admit your errors, but like to tell everyone else your agenda. The same hardheaded attitude is behind many of today's seniors when it comes to driving. I recall my neighbor Paul who had one eye. When he went to renew, he flunked. Guess what? HE KEPT DRIVING ANYWAY!

Anonymous

Mr. Rick Studer I dont know what your problem is that you must personally attack me. Perhaps you are one of the elderly drivers in question? Or maybe you are just a trailer living piece of trash that probably drives a half wrecked 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity around town. I was commenting to Sue and not you who seems to have nothing to do but voice your opinion. Do you actually have a job? You know nothing about me, i will admit to a few slip ups but i dont not have a problem.

Rick Studer

Ok Re Sues Blog, I don’t not want to upset you…

Anonymous

I don't see any errors.I think you just can't comprehend what your reading.Maybe you should have someone else read the statement and explain it to you.Maybe if you read it 7 OR 8 more times you'll see just how dumb you are.Good luck!

Anonymous

Sue-

The camera is over HERE! Look! OVER HERE!

Anonymous

the correct expression is go take a long walk off a short pier.

Anonymous

Here we go again. Mr. Studer has once again reared his ugly head to serve insult and injustice to all. Get a life Rick. You make about as much sense as McCain's V.P. choice. You are full of more crap than either of those worthless presidential candidates. By the way Mr. Studer you never answered any of my statements or questions. Have you finally been silenced? Oh and to Boomer, thanks for your I.Q. raising comment that we all knew about 50 yrs ago, welcome to the 20th century.

Anonymous

Hope you don't drive,........

Anonymous

Art Vandalay wrote:

'Oh and to Boomer, thanks for your I.Q. raising comment that we all knew about 50 yrs ago, welcome to the 20th century. '

To what 'comment' are you referring to exactly?

Make nice Arty; just trying to have a 'polite' conversation here. I understand that hiding behind a funny ‘Seinfield’ name makes you braver than you would be in person, but that’s no reason to be uncivil is it?

Anonymous

Did you mean welcome to the 21st century?

Anonymous

where am i? and how did i lose my car? has anyone seen me?

Anonymous

We have the power and the money.Except for welfare senior's who never saved a dime.Your never going to single us out for retesting,never.

Rick Studer

Art Seinfeld… I have always sought out and engaged Idiots, Republicans and butchers of the English language, or any combination of the afore mentioned three. It has never been my intention to debate the mentally infirm or residents of local institutions. With that in mind please accept my apologies and best wishes. May I suggest you wrest control of the lounge remote tonight and watch Dirty Harry on AMC. Well dressed man with a large gun working the streets of San Francisco should be right up your proverbial alley…

Anonymous

Ok here we go, I have heard it all before concering my name. My full name is Melvin Artemus Vandalay, it is not fake, that is my name. I am called Art because i have a cousin who is appoximately a year older than me, he was also named Melvin. So to avoid confusion the family called him Mel and me Art. I have gone by Art ever since, and yes I hear the Seinfeld jokes. The name on Seinfeld is spelled differently, and i guess with all you peoples logic that everyone named John Connor is hunted by The Terminator. So Mr. Boomer i am plenty brave and would have no problem debating you about fact, but you seem to only want to discuss fiction. At least even Rick Studer makes a point when he is talking, all be it moranic.

Anonymous

to clarify my comment that some have judged so harshly;

someone used the expression go take a short walk off a long pier at 10:15a and someone else thought it was funny at 8:16p on 08-27-08.

i was informing them of the correct version and not debating anyone. have a nice day.

Rick Studer

TO: ms boomer

Thank you dear for the clarification; it’s so nice to see grace and manners mixed among the rabble on this blog. You too have a nice day!

Anonymous

hey art, moranic? how bout MORONIC,you sound like a moran loL