Are You Still Safe to Drive? Is surely one of the most difficult conversations to have with an elderly relative? Here are some things to consider.
The statistics show that people over 80 are as likely to be the cause of or the casualty in a road traffic accident as people in their early 20’s. We know how important being able to keep driving is for an older person – not only for their dignity and independence but because often it is the only way they can actually travel to the places they need to go or they will become prisoners in their homes. We can understand how resistant people are to have the conversation about this but what often happens is that this delay leads to a crisis – a crisis that curtails an innocent life!
We ran a project a couple of years ago with Police Scotland and we founds that having the conversation and offering solutions can be a positive. We designed a questionnaire purely designed to help you or a loved one think about the changes you may want to make to help you drive safer for longer. The questionnaire asks
- Do you feel confident that you are a sage driver?
- Can you turn your head in both directions to see any blind spot?
- Can you perform an emergency stop?
- Do your eyes adjust well to changing levels of darkness/brightness?
- Do you have your car maintained and checked at regular intervals?
- Do you feel sufficiently alert to process all the road information around you and make good decisions
There are a list of 15 recommendations on the back but if I was to highlight one of the most important changes it would be the benefit of strength and balancing exercises such as OTAGO.
People who attend our classes report measurable improvement in their ability to turn their neck and this has made them much more confident that they can see traffic and pedestrians around them. Our members report that the exercises have helped improve their leg strength and they feel much more able to brake robustly when needed and even helps with clutch control. The improvement in their mobility generally also means they have more options about where to park because they no longer need to be as close to a door as before. However the biggest gain is that the regular exercise has a huge benefit on their concentration and alertness. You can find the full questionnaire by following this link. There is also one for helping pedestrians stay safer.
There does however often come a time when it is not safe for an older person to continue driving and this can provoke very negative grief reactions. There is no magic wand but the more preparation people make for this time and the more emotional and practical support they are given can have a positive impact. Here is a link to a guide that may help https://ilcuk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Successfully-giving-up-driving-for-older-people.pdf
Lastly I need to mention taxis! Our frustration knows no bounds when older people opt to sit at home rather than pay a few pounds (in urban areas) for a taxi instead of coming out to a life enhancing social opportunity. The barriers are often not financial[i] but the perception of it being an extravagance, the anxiety of who the driver will be or just a dogged belief that this is not an option that applies to them. If I could urge families to work on 2 lifestyle changes above all others they would be breaking up your sitting every hour every day and if you can’t walk to get out, or if you don’t feel able to get the bus anymore and if no one is able to give you a lift then DON’T become a Prisoner for the Price of a Taxi.
[i] We fully recognise the much wider issues around transport and access to affordable, sustainable and safe transport. We work in partnership with Police Scotland on a Travelling with Confidence campaign, contributors to the Alliance response to the National Transport Strategy 2019. We work with Community Transport Association Scotland and Living Street. It is not our intention to under estimate the challenges many people face physically or financially however this blog is written to highlight that for many older people and their relatives these are choices they may like to consider.
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!
We need more Volunteer Footcare Technicians.
Many older people cannot cut their own toe nails and need to find an affordable service to help them. Long toenails can make it difficult to get shoes on, can cause pain when walking and increases the chances of having a fall. And for elderly people, falls have been shown to be as dangerous as smoking and heart disease.
“Roar Do Feet” is a basic footcare service for older people. We run sessions in various venues across Renfrewshire where we cut toe nails and carry out basic footcare. It’s also an opportunity to chat to people about how they are getting on.
There is a big demand for our Roar Do Feet service and we need volunteer footcare technicians to keep it running. Volunteers get training and support from Roar and an NHS Podiatrist – there is also a pathway to paid employment. We know feet aren’t for everyone but it’s an opportunity to do something wonderful for older people, that helps them get out, socialise and helps prevent falls.
If you want to volunteer please get in contact.
tel: 0141 889 7481
Anne Volunteer Footcare Technician
I’ve been volunteering for around 6 months. I do toenail cutting, comforting foot rubs and conversation. The training we get from the NHS Podiatrist is great. Some people don’t like feet but they’re not that bad . I started off as a dental assistant and now I’m doing feet so I’ve moved from the top to the bottom of the body.
I really enjoy it. Footcare seems like a small thing but it makes a huge difference to people’s lives. If the people can’t cut their toenails, it can lead to problems walking, which can result in back pain, decreased mobility and increased risk of falling and social isolation. So while it seems like a little thing it’s really life changing.
Cara Volunteer Footcare Technician
I had finished my marketing degree and while I was job hunting I contacted Roar to volunteer as a befriender. When I was shown what a huge difference I could make doing footcare, I decided to give it a go. If an older person can’t cut their toenails it can result in lots of complications. Their feet can become painful, they don’t move about, stop going out and they can become socially isolated. This service has even been shown to help prevent falls which can have a devastating impact on older people’s lives. It’s not something I thought I would ever do but it has actually been good and I’ve been doing it for 8 months now. Its lovely chatting to people, they really appreciate the service and when they leave they say they really feel the difference … not as sore.
The footcare training we get is great, it is from a NHS Podiatrist and they come back every so often to do top up training. I’m really well supported in the sessions and I can always ask questions.
The sessions are a good laugh, it’s a nice atmosphere, there are a few of us doing it in a room and the people I meet have great stories. It’s not for everyone but cutting toe nails can have a massive impact on people’s lives and it well worth doing. Cara has recently taken up a full-time marketing post in London.
Roar are always looking for volunteers and if you want to do something wonderful for older people then you should get in contact.
If you want to volunteer please get in contact.
tel: 0141 889 7481
Roar’s Annual Report 2015/16