Keeping seniors safe through life changes
We know that driving is a symbol of one’s independence and a freedom many seniors value. For this reason, the subject of no longer driving is not readily accepted for our aging community. Providing seniors with options and programs to gain back driving ability and privileges versus permanently revoking the license is the best practice in our opinion.
With our program in place, Windom Area Hospital Rehabilitation staff offers a service that is lacking in our area and allowing our patients to receive services in our local hospital. Eliminating extensive travel to receive care is our goal at Windom Area hospital. Our program serves Cottonwood, Nobles, Jackson and Murray counties.
When a person thinks of a driving assessment, another behind the wheel test may come to mind. Our senior driving program is different, placing you behind the wheel with our rehabilitation department assessing your abilities in our local hospital facility.
What qualifies a person to be a senior driver?
With decades of successful driving behind the wheel, an experienced and well-seasoned driver comes to mind. What difficulties do we then encounter with seniors on the road? As drivers become a mature age, they start to face new mental and physical challenges that change their overall driving and reaction time when on the road.
In comparison, younger driver’s accidents often occur due to inexperience or risky behavior; verses experienced driver’s accidents tend to be related to inattention or slowed speed of visual processing. Drivers involved in these particular accidents indicate that visual, cognitive and motor factors may have had an effect on their ability to drive safely.
What is the Senior Driving Program?
Our Senior Driving program enables our rehabilitation staff to assess senior abilities with several physical and mental skills assessments using cutting edge devises. Our basic framework necessary to be safe and independent behind the wheel includes many different skills. For this reason, the program will assess seniors’ active range of motion (ROM), muscle strength, vision, problem solving, impulse control, memory, reaction time and cognition.
Determining if therapy is necessary
There are a couple options if you feel your family member is putting themselves or others at risk on the road. If you are a concerned family member or care provider simply report a driver to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a reexamination. Please note, if your family member does fail their license will be revoked. This option provides you with no follow-ups or additional therapy needing to be provided. If a physician medically revokes a license, there will be assessments, therapy and further care as options before a license is legally revoked.
If and when a senior is identified as a potential driving risk, either by the state, health care provider, family or other program staff, a physician referral will be required in order for a driving assessment to be performed and submitted to insurance.
Our Senior Driving program’s intention is to help seniors maintain their driving privileges and mobility. We aim to return the freedom to drive to as many seniors as possible, with their safety and that of others in mind.
Process to initiate assessment
Initially, a patient would schedule an appointment with our occupational therapist to be evaluated. The therapist will then provide an objective assessment, where results and recommendations are communicated to the patient and physician. The physician will then make an informed decision based on the objective assessment results. The outcomes could be:
- Questionable Assessment-The patient may be referred to a behind the wheel test, which is ordered by the physician. A medical behind the wheel assessment varies from a regular behind the wheel ‘test; and they are typically in Sioux Falls, SD.
- Failed Assessment-Our recommendations are provided and the doctor can order no driving.
- Passed Assessment-Our recommendations are provided and the doctor can approve continued driving.
Therapy: The assessment from our occupational therapist may also include outpatient therapy recommendations to improve various areas, such as range of motion, reaction time, cognition, etc. The physician could order the individualized therapy. At the end of the period of therapy, a repeat assessment can be ordered by the physician.