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Occupational Therapy Helps Keep Older Adults on the Road

Occupational Therapy Helps Keep Older Adults on the Road

As we age, physical and mental changes make it hard for adults to complete routine daily activities, such as driving. Driving can be an essential activity that helps to keep older adults connected to their community, loved ones, and activities or events that enhance their quality of life. While driving is seen as a privilege, it is an important way for people to enjoy freedom and independence.

When accidents and moments of confusion happen while driving, it could be a good time for a clinical driving evaluation to help older adults continue to drive on the road safely. Campbell County Health Occupational Therapist Laura York at Rehabilitation Services has specialized training in driver rehabilitation to help individuals remain mobile and independent. Laura offers clinical driving evaluations as part of her practice.

“Individuals are often hesitant to participate in driving discussions due to fear of losing their independence and freedom,” says Laura, OT and a Driving Rehabilitative Specialist (DRS). “A driving specialist will work with you, your family member, and physician to determine safe driving goals, which may include driver training, temporary hold, or driving retirement. Our program strives to help alleviate the fear and anxiety regarding driving.”

Clinical Driving Evaluations

Driving requires both mental and physical abilities—from navigating an intersection, to being able to push the brake. A clinical driving evaluation looks at an older adults physical and cognitive abilities, and will create solutions to help them continue to be a safe driver. CCH’s driving risk evaluation assess the following areas:

  • Ability to multitask
  • coordination
  • decision making
  • memory
  • physical strength
  • range of motion
  • reaction time
  • sensation in arms and legs
  • upper and lower body coordination and endurance
  • vision and sensory abilities

During the driving evaluation, Laura can recommend to necessary therapy, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy or physical therapy to help them with refresh the skills they may need. She may also recommend some modifications or equipment to allow a senior to adapt their vehicle to allow for safe driving. These modifications can include:

  • Cushions inside the car
  • Left-foot accelerators
  • Seatbelt extenders
  • Steering wheel spinner knobs

When to get a driving evaluation

A key time to get a clinical driving evaluation is after age 65, following an injury or after a disability or after being diagnosed with a stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease or a concussion. Older adults can get a baseline driving evaluation and return for additional evaluations as they age.

Does my loved one need a driving evaluation?

The topic of driving is often a complicated and difficult discussion. While it may be easier to avoid the topic, your safety, as well as your loved ones (and others) could be at risk. Consider some of the following warning signs:

  • Difficulty with multitasking
  • Difficulty navigating turns or driving in the wrong lane
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Having a hard time getting in and out of the car
  • Hitting curbs
  • Increased accidents or “close calls” when driving
  • Increased anxiety when driving
  • More dings in their car
  • Recent accidents or driving tickets
  • Slower reaction times

Occupational Therapy for Driving in Gillette, Wyoming

CCH Rehabilitation Services offers clinical driving evaluations by Occupational Therapy professionals certified as Driving Rehabilitative Specialists in Gillette, Wyoming. Contact us at 307.688.8000. Our compassionate and experienced staff helps each patient, in a team-oriented atmosphere, reach their goals. Visit www.cchwyo.org/rehab to learn more about treatment options.