I saw something online today that caught my attention. It had to do with the changes this month to Ontario's driver license renewal program for seniors over 80. While when I initially read about the changes, I thought they were making it easier for a senior to pass and worried about what that would mean for seniors with some forms of 'hidden' disabilities, I have come to understand that in fact, they have added a much needed dimension to the testing process. The Ministry has added some cognitive testing that will hopefully ensure that those with dementia who have a reduced reaction time or have difficulty with important cues will be identified through this renewal process.
While driving is an important aspect of independence that can be difficult to give up - and for that reason, one would not want to be forced unnecessarily to give this up before one has to - a car driven by someone who has reduced cognitive capacity can put the driver and others on the road with him, at great risk. For this reason, while it is wonderful that the Ministry of Transportation is taking the initiative by adding this new level of testing, in fairness, their scope of identifying issues is limited because those over 80 renew every 2 years. A lot can change in a 2 year period so this does not in any way remove responsibility from medical personnel or family members from expressing concern and in fact, dealing with those concerns, if they notice a senior is exhibiting cognitive issues that may impact their driving safety.
Talking to a loved one about emotional issues impacting their independence - whether its needing help at home, relocating to a care home or possibly giving up their driving license - is never easy. In fact, it can be some of the most difficult conversations you will have but, all are important and very necessary if you hope to keep them and in some cases others, safe.
For added reading material or support information on helping someone you know with dementia please visit www.alzheimer.ca. For information on the new Seniors' Driver Renewal Program in Ontario visit www.mto.gov.on.ca.