Driving evaluation services for seniors

Sometimes, it can be hard to know when it’s time for an older driver to make some changes. We don’t want to take away their feeling of independence, but we also want to keep them safe. Jill R. Linder, MHS, OTR, gives us an overview of the driving evaluation services offered through Parkview's Outpatient Rehabilitation Therapies, and how it can help keep your loved ones from being at risk on the road.  

What is a driving evaluation?

A driving evaluation is an assessment that evaluates an individual’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. If an individual has a medical condition that may impact the skills that are essential for safe vehicle operation, or if they are experiencing some age-related changes, they may qualify for an appointment. Parkview’s driver evaluation is a two-part assessment that includes clinical testing as well as a behind-the-wheel driving test.

Who is a good candidate for a driving evaluation?

Anyone who has a medical condition that may impact his/her ability to safely operate a vehicle. Common medical diagnosis include:

  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Visual impairments
  • General age-related changes

What are some signs that my loved one may need an evaluation?

If you notice memory loss, forgetfulness, visual impairments, a change in reaction speed or mobility, or decreased problem-solving skills, encourage them to speak to their doctor.

How Does the Program Work?

The Driver Rehabilitation Program is broken down into two parts:

Pre-driving evaluation

This evaluation is completed in the outpatient therapy clinic on the Randallia campus. The occupational therapist evaluates the patients vision, strength, mobility, coordination, reaction speed and cognition to determine capabilities and potential concerns, or needs for adaptive equipment, such as expanded mirrors for those with limited neck mobility.

On-the-road evaluation

In this second phase of the program, the individual drives a car provided by the clinic. The vehicle is equipped with a dual brake to provide additional safety for the driver, the evaluator, and other roadway users. The behind-the-wheel assessment is completed by an occupational therapist who is certified by the The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. 

For this phase, the driver operates the car in a variety of traffic environments so the evaluator can create an accurate assessment of capabilities under various conditions. The client can also try out adaptive equipment that may assist them with a safe return to driving.

Following the evaluation, the occupational therapist reviews the results and recommendations with the individual. A detailed report is then sent to the referring physician, who makes a determination if an individual is safe to resume or continue driving.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering having a conversation with someone they love about their ability to drive?

Remember to communicate respectfully. We approach individuals with the intention of figuring out how to make sure they stay safe while driving, not with the intention of taking away their keys. Maybe they are capable of driving safely with some restrictions, like within a certain radius or during a certain time of day. For more resources on having that conversation, take a look at the Hartford guidebook.

How does an individual schedule an appointment?

A physician’s prescription is required for the driving evaluation. For more information or to schedule an appointment please call (260) 373-3202.

The Parkview Driver Rehabilitation Program is located on the ground floor of Parkview Hospital Randallia, Entrance 2.

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