Is it still safe for my elderly parents to drive? This common concern is an important and delicate subject, and one that many people struggle with as their parents age. In our upcoming webinar, Melissa sits down with Matt Gurwell, retired State Trooper and creator of the Beyond Driving with Dignity program. Matt will discuss the effects of aging on driving skills and provide real-life solutions for older drivers and their concerned families. 

Watch the video for a preview of the webinar and then visit ArborCompany.com/Drive to register!

 

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone and welcome again to Senior Living LIVE! My name is Melissa. We hope you had a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family. It's great to see you as always back here with us, as we prepare for our first webinar of 2022. Now, it's a topic we have not discussed yet, but it is an important one, Adults with Aging Parent Drivers: Is it safe for my elderly parents to drive? That is a wonderful question. And somebody who's gonna help us answer some of those questions that you may have regarding this topic is Matt Gurwell, the Program Director and Founder of the Beyond Driving with Dignity program. He joins me now. Matt, Happy Holidays. How are you?

- Thank you, Melissa, thank you for having me. Happy New Year to you as well.

- Absolutely and we're just thankful that you took some time out of this busy holiday season to join us to give us a little bit of a preview of what this is about. I think the title really says it all. But first, tell us a little bit about yourself and this particular program.

- Great, I'd love to, Melissa. My name is Matt Gurwell, as you said. Geographically, I personally am in Cleveland, Ohio, made Cleveland my home. Not a lot of folks can say that. But I'm a retired Ohio State Trooper. And I saw throughout my career, Melissa, that there was a void in the system, so to speak, on what we do with older drivers that maybe shouldn't be driving any longer. And I'm not talking about all older drivers, because many of them are still excellent drivers and will be for many years to come still. But certainly, we'd all agree that there's a component of them, a small population, a small subset of them that have lost their ability to remain safe behind the wheel, either due to cognitive diminishment or some type of physical slippage or both, physical and cognitive. So, what we did was, when I retired from the highway patrol, I started this what we call now a self-assessment program, where we sit down with the older driver, meet with him or her at their home, at the convenience of their own kitchen table. I like to think it's probably the most comfortable place in the world for them. And we go through a session together and then we help the older driver make the right decision about their driving future. And that can be anything from, "Mr. Smith, I think you're doing a great job. Call us back if anything changes," to the other extreme that, "Mr. Smith, I don't think you should continue driving."

- Yeah, and I think this is great because it brings in sort of a neutral third party, right?

- Right.

- And it sort of takes that burden off of the family members who have some concerns. And that leads me really to my next question. And that is, I talk to seniors a lot, have a lot of really in-depth conversations with them. Many of them can still drive and they really hold onto that ability just dearly. It's something that they covet because it allows them true freedom to come and go as they please. And they feel that once that goes away, that that freedom will go away as well.

- Right.

- So, how does one begin to have that conversation with a loved one?

- Right, well, as far as this program goes, Melissa, speaking about this program specifically, it's called Beyond Driving with Dignity for a reason. And our goal is to not only help the older driver make the right decision, which may be a very difficult decision and that is that of driving cessation, but also to help them maintain their dignity, their pride and their independence through what can be one of life's most difficult transitions, and that is that of driving retirement. But there are all sorts of ways that we could help the older driver maintain both their dignity and their independence. And it all starts with just like your question prefaces, with how to address the issue with mom or dad. And we talk a lot about, and we stress a lot about using the right terms. Don't tell mom and dad you're gonna take the car or the keys from them. That's starting the whole conversation off on the wrong foot. It needs to be that mom or dad, I'm concerned about your driving. And then support that with facts. And here's why I say that, here's why we children think that maybe your driving is in question. And then provide them with specific examples. Many of these individuals, Melissa, as you well know, have been driving for many, many, many, not only years, but decades.

- Right.

- And oftentimes, they never have had a traffic accident, they never have been cited by the police in all of those 50 plus years of driving. And so now comes along a younger generation telling him or her that they shouldn't be driving any longer. So they're actually, in my opinion, owed an explanation as to, tell me why you think that. And then it's important too, to offer them alternatives. Mom, I don't want you to lose your independence just because you're making the difficult decision to give up driving. Coming from law enforcement, I like to say the person shouldn't be placed under house arrest, just because they did the right thing and gave up driving. So, we as a family, need to provide them with ways and alternatives and options so that they can maintain their independence through this difficult time.

- Yeah, and I want to talk more about those in a minute. But first, you have to start from somewhere, to be able to even have that conversation. Something is happening that is leading you to worry about your loved one. So if somebody is watching this particular preview for your webinar and they say, you know what? My mom and dad, a little concerned about their driving. What are some things that you want people to look for that will lead them to believe it is time to have that conversation?

- There are, first of all, to back that up even one step further, those conversations should start today, regardless of where your mother or father are in the safe driving continuum. Hopefully, today they are excellent drivers. They may be getting a bit older, as we all are, but their driving might be fine. Now is the ideal time to start talking to them about driving. It's not uncommon to turn on the evening news and see a story where a local resident left to get a loaf of bread and they found them four days later, halfway across the country. Now's the time to talk to mom about that. Say, mom, this person had a problem and it looks like they probably shouldn't have been driving. I hope that you listen to us children and the others, the doctors, the medical professionals, when someone suggests to you that it might be time to step away from driving. So I think for all of us, those skids need to be greased now, today, just so that you're comfortable talking to mom or dad about the driving issue. So if and when the day does come where it's time to step the tone of that conversation up a little bit, that again, we're ready to do that, the door has already been opened. I encourage families to, as I just said, to cite current news events and use that as an ice breaker to talk to mom or dad about maybe the day will come when you can no longer drive. For folks diagnosed with any type of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, that's a disease that's progressive in nature. With the early onset of dementia, you're probably still okay to continue driving, but it's going to progress. So if your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, again, they may be fine to continue driving today, but now's the time to talk to them about how this disease is progressive and the day will come where it's simply no longer safe to continue driving.

- Yeah, and that goes along really with everything else we sort of hear from professionals just like yourself when it comes to senior living. And that is, just don't wait until there's an emergency.

- Exactly.

- That is not the time to have any of these conversations, whether it's driving, whether it's senior living. Just don't wait.

- Right.

- Have those conversations early while they still have a choice

- Exactly.

- in the matter. Yeah, absolutely.

- I couldn't have said it better. I heard a saying one time that said, Americans would rather take painkillers than vitamins. And we're trying to kind of reverse that. Be proactive, take steps now. I encourage folks again, regardless of where they're at on the safe driving continuum to expose themselves to what transportation options are available in their particular community. Now, Melissa, we've got Uber and Lyft that we didn't have even 10 years ago. So all of us can have pretty much their own driver show up at 2:00 a.m. If you decide you want to go to Walmart and do some shopping, you can call for a ride. Now, it used to be that to call for an Uber ride, you had to have two things. You had to have a smartphone, which a lot of times older adults do not have, nor do they want. And you had to have the Uber app. So Uber pieced together that we're missing out on a tremendous business opportunity because a lot of older adults that might need rides can't access our service because they didn't have a smartphone. So now, they've developed a program, a platform called gogograndparent.com, which allows anybody to call for an Uber ride with even the old flip style cell phone, it doesn't have to be a smartphone any longer. And there's all sorts of public transportation options available to us. A lot of times, a local religious institution, whether it's a synagogue, a church, whatever it happens to be, provides some in-house transportation. A lot of times doctor's offices do. And of course, care facilities oftentimes do as well. So there's all sorts of options out there. But i want to say again, as part of this program, no one should lose their independence just because they retired from driving.

- Yeah, I agree with that. And you answered that question about the different options and approved by a former Ohio State Trooper.

- Right.

- So, Ohio State Trooper, so thank you so much for giving some of those options. And I think that even if somebody is unable to make your webinar, where they can ask questions to you directly on January 6th, but they will certainly get some tips from this particular video and that's what this is all about. So now finally, if someone is watching and they want to get in touch with you right now,

- Of course.

- or they have additional questions just based on this video, how can they do that?

- Right, well, we have representatives across the United States, Senior Care Authority. And our representatives, or our franchise owners are experts in elder care consulting and placement service, residential placement services. But they are also trained and certified in this Beyond Driving with Dignity program. So, you can either visit the seniorcareauthority.com website to learn more about this particular program. Or we have a sub website, if you want to call it that and it's beyonddrivingwithdignity.com. Again, it's beyonddrivingwithdignity.com or you can always call at 877-907-8841. Again, it's 877-907-8841.

- Perfect, and then you will, of course, be available

- Yes.

- during your webinar for questions for our viewers. And we love that so much. Matt, as far as today, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

- Thank you for having me, Melissa.

- Yeah, and we also of course, want to thank you in advance for your time with our viewers for your upcoming webinar, January 6th at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. It's called, Adults with Aging Drivers: Is it safe for elderly parents to drive? Don't forget to register. You can do that over at www.seniorlivinglive.com. We look forward to seeing you then.

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