• 72°

HEALTHY LIVING — Knowing when to leave the driving to others

As we age, our joints may get stiff and our muscles may weaken. Arthritis, which is common among older adults, might affect our ability to drive. These changes can make it harder to turn your head to look back, turn the steering wheel quickly, or brake safely.

Eyesight often changes as you get older. It might be harder to see people, things, and movement outside your direct line of sight. It may take longer to read street or traffic signs or even recognize familiar places. At night, you may have trouble seeing things clearly. Glare from oncoming headlights or streetlights can be a problem. Depending on the time of the day, the sun might be blinding. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, as well as some medicines, can also cause vision problems.

Our hearing also changes, making it harder to notice horns, sirens, or even noises coming from your own car. Hearing loss can be a problem because these sounds warn you when you may need to pull over or get out of the way.

As you get older, your reflexes will get slower, and you will likely not react as quickly as you could in the past. You might find that you have a shorter attention span, making it harder to do two things at once. Stiff joints or weak muscles also can make it harder to move quickly. Loss of feeling or tingling in your fingers and feet can make it difficult to steer or use the foot pedals. Parkinson’s disease or limitations following a stroke can make it no longer safe to drive.

Do you take any medicines that make you feel drowsy, lightheaded, or less alert than usual? Do medicines you take have a warning about driving? Many medications have side effects that can make driving unsafe. Pay attention to how these drugs may affect your driving.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, some people are able to keep driving. But, as memory and decision-making skills become more difficult, they need to stop driving. People with dementia often do not know they are having driving problems. Family and friends need to monitor the person’s driving ability and take action as soon as they observe a potential problem, such as forgetting how to find familiar places like the grocery store or even their home. Work with the doctor to let the person know it’s no longer safe to keep driving.

Take a good hard look at your abilities. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? I know it is hard to give up any independence by allowing others to help you. Please, consider yours and the safety of others when any of these issues arise. Listen to your loved ones. They truly care about you. I wish you a long and healthy life.

Jody Holton writes about health and wellness for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com