Tuesday: Family Conversations
AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is intentionally held each year in December because this is the time of year when families often come together for the holidays. One of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a nonthreatening conversation with our loved ones. Family and friends play a major role in discussions about older driver safety, and it is better to start the conversation early, allowing time for planning and the exploration of options long before the crisis or accident. The conversation about driving is easier when an older adult is a healthy and competent driver allowing the focus to be on making good choices to stay safe, independent, and engaged in the community.
Unfortunately, conversations about driving can result in emotional or defensive responses. Concerned families and friends may need to prepare to ensure the conversation focus on the welfare of their loved one, emphasizing the shared goal of continued driving safely for as long as possible, as opposed to convincing the person to stop driving. Family and friends can begin the conversation by asking questions about how people know when they are no longer able to drive safely, or whether the older driver thinks there will ever be a time that he or she cannot drive safely. Older adults typically think about these things without discussing them, so asking questions might help get the conversation started.
Occupational therapy practitioners can provide families with materials on older driver safety, support families when bringing up the topic, and look at older adults holistically to provide information tailored to their individual needs. Get more information about family conversations, with specific questions to ask an older driver, here.