The Dilemma of Older Drivers: Safety Vs. Independence

Driving a car is a symbol of independence and competence and is closely tied to an individual’s identity. It also represents freedom and control and allows older adults to gain easy access to social connections, health care, shopping, activities and even employment. At some point, however, it is predictable that driving skills will deteriorate and individuals will lose the ability to safely operate a vehicle. Even though age alone does not determine when a person needs to stop driving, the decision must be balanced with personal and public safety.

Undoubtedly, an older adult’s sense of independence vs. driving risk equals a very sensitive and emotionally charged topic. Older adults may agree with the decline of their driving ability, yet feel a sense of loss, blame others, attempt to minimize and justify, and ultimately may feel depressed at the thought of giving up driving privileges. Realizing one can no longer drive can lead to social isolation and a loss of personal or spousal independence, self-sufficiency, and even employment. In general, older drivers want to decide for themselves when to quit, a decision that often stems from the progression of medical conditions that affect vision, physical abilities, perceptions and, consequently, driving skills. There are many things that an older adult can do to be a safe driver and to participate in his or her own driving cessation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that older adults:

  • Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Limit driving only to daytime, low traffic, short radius, clear weather
  • Plan the safest route before driving and find well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Have eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Preplan and consider alternative sources and costs for transportation and volunteer to be a passenger.

Family Caregivers Role:

Initially, it may seem cruel to take an older person’s driving privilege away; however, genuine concern for older drivers means much more than simply crossing fingers in hopes that they will be safe behind the wheel. Families need to be vigilant about observing the driving behavior of older family members.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, strategies that may lead to driving cessation when less drastic measures fail include:

  1. Family meetings to discuss issues and concerns
  2. Disabling or removing the car
  3. Filing down the keys
  4. Placing an “Expired” sticker over the driver’s license
  5. Cancelling the vehicle registration
  6. Preventing the older driver from renewing his or her driver’s license
  7. Speaking with the driver’s doctor to write a prescription not to drive, or to schedule a formal driving assessment

Finally, it is suggested that family members learn about the warning signs of driving problems, assess independence vs. the public safety, observe the older driver behind the wheel or ride along, discuss concerns with a physician, and explore alternative transportation options.

In general, having an attitude of constant adjustment until an older individual has to face the actual moment of driving cessation seems to be a positive approach. Without recognizing the magnitude of this transition, improving the quality of life for older adults will be compromised.

The information in this article was adapted from Driving Dilemmas: Risk vs. Independence created by Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer, Today’s Caregiver Newsletter 2017.

For referrals to community organizations in Guilford County that assist older adults and caregivers with these documents, contact Senior Resources of Guilford’s SeniorLine at (336) 884-6981 in High Point, all other areas (336) 333-6981 or the Caregiver Support Coordinator, at (336) 373-4816 or (336) 883-3586 in High Point.

 

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Caregiver Education in June

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It’s Time 50+ Forum at Smith Senior Center!

Veterans: Dial Carefully to Avoid This Scam

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

This scam exploits the Veterans Choice Program, a government initiative that allows some vets to use health care providers outside the VA system. The program has a toll-free telephone number that vets and their families can use to check their eligibility. Crooks have set up a telephone number that is almost identical, which they are publicizing in a letter to veterans.

Vets who call the fake number are told they are entitled to a rebate if they provide a credit card number. There’s no rebate, but charges will be made against the credit card account. The family of a North Carolina veteran received the letter and contacted our office about this scam. Fortunately they did not fall for it.

Scammers commonly utilize look-alikes (logos and fonts that are similar to those used by real companies, agencies, and charities) and sound-alikes (names that are similar to the real thing) to trick us. In this instance, the “hook” is a telephone number that is very close to the actual number.

Don’t let scammers claim a victory at your expense.  If you are a vet, or you are helping a vet access health care, remember:

  • Dial carefully. The REAL Veterans Choice Program number is 866-606-8198.
  • Be skeptical. No government agency, including the VA, will ask for your personal financial account information in this way. If the person on the phone does, they may not be who they say they are.

If you are contacted by a scammer, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online.

Smith Senior Center is Here to Help You Age Out Loud!

May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is Age Out Loud.

  • UNC-G Oral History Project Listening Session on May 3
  • Greensboro Senior Artists Guild Craft Fair on May 4
  • Tai Chi for Rehab classes begin May 8
  • Medicare Simplified on May 17
  • Grasshoppers Games on May 19 & June 16
  • Adult Coloring Books Spring Art Show on May 23
  • Benefits Check-up on May 24
  • Healthy Living for Your Brain & Body on May 31
  • Healthy Cooking Demo on June 1
  • AARP Safe Driver Course on June 5
  • Home Burglary Prevention on June 15
  • Garden Club Meet & Greet on June 19
  • 4th of July Cookout on June 30

As a reminder:

Faucette Farms delivers fresh, organic produce to Smith Senior Center as part of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Orders are delivered each Thursday at 1:30 pm.  You may register online at the Faucette Farms website or by calling 336-669-5083.

Attached is the May/June Smith Sentinel newsletter and activity calendars for both months.

May_Jun_2017_Sentinel

May2017-calendar

Jun2017-calendar

How to Tell a Fake IRS Agent From a Real One

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

For years we’ve been warning you about phony IRS agents who call, trying to convince you that you owe back taxes. To help you spot these scammers, we told you that the IRS won’t contact you by phone.

But starting this month, Congress is requiring the IRS to hire private debt collectors. Four legitimate debt collection companies will be contacting taxpayers by phone.

So how can you tell if the person on the phone is an IRS scammer, or someone who really is calling on behalf of the U.S. Government? Here are some tips:

  • Before your debt is turned over to a private debt collector, the IRS will send you multiple letters. Unless there is a problem with your mail delivery, you should receive them before a private debt collector calls. If you haven’t, the person on the line is probably a scammer.
  • If the caller threatens you with a lawsuit, arrest, or physical harm, or demands immediate payment over the phone, it’s a scammer.
  • If the initial contact with you about your alleged debt is by text, email, or social media, it’s a scammer.
  • A debt collector working for the government will require your payment to be made at IRS.gov, or via a check made out to the U.S. Treasury that is mailed directly to the IRS. If they want you to pay your debt any other way, including prepaid debit, iTunes or gift cards, it’s a scammer.

Jury Duty Scammers Still Working the Phones

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

North Carolinians continue to receive calls from phony sheriff’s deputies who claim they skipped jury duty and a subsequent court date. The caller says a warrant has been issued for your arrest, or soon will be, but you can pay a fine now and avoid being arrested.

These con artists are trying to exploit your fear of getting on the wrong side of the law, and hoping they can squeeze money out of you before you realize it’s a scam. The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has received dozens of reports about jury duty scams so far this year, and six people have fallen victim. Victims of the jury duty scam report losses of about $1,000 each.

All of the victims were instructed to use Green Dot Money Pak cards as their method of payment. These prepaid debit cards, and gift cards like iTunes cards, have become scammers’ preferred way of getting their hands on your money. This is true of IRS scams as well as many others.

To protect yourself, remember:

  • Real notices for jury duty arrive by mail.
  • Legitimate public officials won’t call to threaten you with arrest if you don’t show up for jury duty or fail to pay a fine immediately.
  • Hang up on jury duty scammers and other crooks who try to trick you out of your hard-earned money.
  • If someone tries to get you to use a prepaid debit card or a gift card to pay money they say you owe them, you are almost certainly being scammed.
  • If you get one of these calls, report it to your local police department and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or completing the form online at www.ncdoj.gov.