My 90 year old grandma has vision problems in her right eye. Should she still be driving?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 16, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dear grandmother is being treated for her Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Though the symptoms don't seem to be getting worse, she still is incapable of seeing well through her right eye. Besides the AMD, she's sharp as a tack and seems very aware of her surroundings. She's been driving slower throughout the years and no longer drives on the freeway or at night time. How do we know when it's time for her to stop driving?

Expert Answers

Laura Juel is an occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. She works in the Outpatient Occupational Therapy Program and the Duke Driving Program for older drivers.

Vision impairments are tricky since they often progress so slowly over time that people do not realize how impaired their vision has become. Macular degeneration results in decreased vision within the central visual fields, peripheral vision is not initially affected. Many people I see with this condition have picked up quickly on compensatory strategies to enable them to continue functional tasks. That being said, central vision is vital to not only driving but safety around the home.

Another area of concern I frequently see with older drivers is a decline in the ability to multi-task. This impacts a person's ability to keep track of where they are going, staying within their lane of travel, observing road signs and monitoring other vehicles. Many people will compensate by staying on familiar roads or driving at a slower rate of speed.

These strategies may be successful for a while but at some point, their medical condition may preclude safe driving.

  • Offer to go out for a ride with your grandmother to observe firsthand her driving abilities, both on local roads and parking lots.

  • Evaluate her vehicle for dents and scratches and ask if she is aware of how they occurred? If you were concerned as a passenger, then it is time to have the conversation of retiring from driving.

  • I would also recommend both you and your grandmother having a conversation with her eye specialist about continued driving. Many times I find that physician's "˜assume' a person is not driving because of their age. Don't be afraid to bring up the conversation with your grandmother.

I have had clients tell me at the end of a driving evaluation that they were "˜really scared' to go out and drive but did not feel they had any other options. Once this discussion was brought up, family and friends could then set a plan in place to meet the transportation needs of their loved one.

Community Answers

Nellie pa answered...

I told my kids I would know when to stop driving. When I started running into things! small dents on car is first sign.