Things we have learned about giving lifts in cars to people who are less fit than before.

While the turkey was still cooking I used to be despatched to go and collect my grandmother and bring her to our house for the day. I would have been in my 20’s and she would have been in her 80’s. Neither of us thought ahead about what could go wrong with the logistics – we just looked forward to our day. Since then I have learned a lot about what can go wrong when you are offering an older relative a lift at any time of year and possibly most especially over the winter time. These lessons have come from the experiences of hearing about accidents that have happened in some of our member’s lives and from regularly being responsible for the safety of volunteer drivers.

I would be so pleased if people could take on this advice and massively reduce very preventable injuries. Some people don’t get out very often. If the person you are planning to give a lift to hasn’t been outside for a number of weeks you really need to check in advance that they have the balance and stamina to undertake this outing (people can seem fine walking around their home but this can change rapidly once they get outside). Our advice is start planning this outing with your loved ones now. Have a look at helping them to engage in some strength and balance exercises, check their sit to stand without assistance, can they swivel. How are they on uneven surfaces and do they have suitable shoes that still fit (sometimes shoes that fitted months previously don’t fit if feet are swollen or toenails need trimmed) If they haven’t been outside recently, consider building this up gradually with walks along the garden path. Check how they are on stairs. If this is going well then you are ready to plan to travel.

The following advice applies to almost any older person you may be giving a lift to

  • Agree or ask what type of support the older person needs, sometimes it has to be a right arm depending on what side a stick is used or vice versa.
  • Plan ahead about the height of the person supporting the elderly relative as different heights can cause imbalance when leaning on an arm
  • Have keys looked out and ready to hand before starting to walk.
  • Beware of handbags/gift bags in car foot well. (Handles and straps can cause a trip)
  • Gently prompt and support the wearing of a seatbelt ( there can be many reasons why an older person is resistant to wearing a seatbelt from physical discomfort to embarrassment at needing help with fastening and unfastening)
  • Forget about closing the car door until the older adult is safely inside or with someone else supporting
  • Does the person collecting know how to safely open a walking frame, wheelchair etc
  • Park where there is space to fully open the car door.

It’s not possible for us to cover every eventuality in this blog but we would urge you to think ahead and if you are planning to convey an elderly person who you don’t regularly give a lift to.

Lastly let us wish you happy travels and a safe and merry festive season!

Nicola