Elders’ Driving: Rights and Concerns

July 4th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

senior driving driving a car slowly on highwayElders’ driving is one common concern adult children have regarding their senior parents’ safety . Home Care providers and geriatricians specialized in elder care, often hear the following questions from concerned children: How do I tell Mom or Dad, they cannot drive anymore. Is it safe for them to be driving at their old age? How to stop my parents from driving? and the problem seems to become bigger.

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next eighteen years. By 2030, almost one in five drivers will be over the age of 65, and they’ll outnumber teenage drivers more than three to one. Some experts are calling this the silver tsunami—and it’s not a movement that’s coming peacefully.

Statistically speaking, elderly drivers are involved in more car accidents and highway fatalities than any age group but teenagers. Elderly drivers often have trouble keeping up with traffic on the road, but unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent unsafe drivers from getting behind the wheel while still allowing experienced and competent senior drivers to keep driving. Several procedures have been discussed, from mandating vision tests (which isn’t always effective in identifying drivers whose visual impairments raise their accident risk) to issuing restricted licenses that only allow for daytime driving (which might not impact elderly drivers significantly, since they already tend to remain at home). Implementing an age cap on licensing, on the other hand, raises constitutional due process and equal protection concerns, as federally imposed restrictions must not be at odds with the Fourteenth Amendment. Clearly, balancing senior driving rights and safety precautions is a serious concern with few obvious answers. Speeding violations lawyer Zev Goldstein cites a recent study by Katherine Mikel of University of Miami School of Law which sheds light on the subject.

State Testing Initiatives

State governments, rather than federal governments, control driver’s licensing across the United States. States vary widely in how they treat elderly drivers. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have imposed additional requirements for older drivers, ranging from improved vision testing to more frequent license renewal for elderly drivers.

License Renewal Restrictions

No states will revoke a driver’s license based on their age alone. Some states, however, have put additional restrictions on license renewals for elderly drivers.  Some states, however, don’t differentiate based on age: they have few or no requirements at all for older drivers. In Tennessee and North Carolina, however, elderly drivers are given more leniency than their younger counterparts: drivers over the age of 65 don’t have to renew their license in Tennessee, while North Carolina drivers over the age of 60 don’t have to parallel park to pass a road test.

License Renewals

States vary on their requirements for older drivers when it comes to renewing their license. Many states institute shorter renewal periods for people over a certain age. These periods, however, can vary widely. In Colorado, individuals over the age of 61 have to renew their license every five years, while those under 61 may renew theirs every ten years. In Illinois, on the other hand, the average driver must renew their license every four years. Between the ages of 81 and 86, this shortens to every 2 years. From the age of 87, drivers must renew their license every year.

Testing

Several states have instituted increased testing requirements for elderly drivers. Many of them require a vision test in order to renew a driver’s license. In Illinois, a driver who is 75 years old or older must take a road test. Some states, however, are more lenient than others. In Florida, elderly drivers are able to renew their licenses by mail for up to 12 years before experiencing testing requirements. If they are over the age of 79, Florida drivers must pass a vision test; however, they can submit results from an approved test by an eye doctor or physician by mail. Most states don’t require a road test to renew a license at any age.

Unsafe Driver Referrals

All states may not have restrictions on license renewals, but there are systems in place to help keep unsafe drivers off of the road. In every state, the Departments of Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety, or Transportation have offices where family members or doctors can make referrals concerning unsafe drivers. The state office will investigate the claim, which may lead to the driver needing to take a road test. Doctors don’t have to report unsafe patients. The state of California, however, mandates reporting of patients with dementia; other states require doctors to report patients with epilepsy.

Age Caps on Licensing: Constitutional Concerns

As was previously mentioned, age caps must adhere to the Fourteenth Amendment. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that no citizen can be deprived of constitutional rights—including the right to “liberty”—without due process. The Equal Protection Clause protects everyone within the state and insists that no one should be arbitrarily denied any right granted to others. These clauses protect drivers from age discrimination, which means that no arbitrary cap on age can be assigned in order for a person to hold a driver’s license in any state.

Simply put, these amendments protect United States citizens from having their driving privileges arbitrarily revoked. In other words, there can be no “mandatory expiration” of driving privileges after a certain age. States also can not restrict the use of their highways. Like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, these regulations prevent drivers from experiencing discrimination on the basis of age alone. Because of this, the responsibility falls on each individual senior and/or their adult children to keep an eye out for any changes in driving ability. When they reach an age where it is no longer safe for them to be behind the wheel, it is up to individual families to note the continuing signs of age and prevent their loved ones from endangering themselves and others.

Across the United States, people in every age group tend to view driving as a necessity rather than a privilege. However, there is a significant conflict of interest on the issue of elderly driving. Elderly drivers want to retain personal autonomy—and as seniors lose some of their mobility, it becomes even more imperative for them to retain their independence and ability to get around—but states and other drivers wish to increase safety on the road. As the rise in senior drivers continues, state and federal governments must continue to seek solutions in order to provide the best outcome for everyone.

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group: July 5, 2016

July 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

July 5, 4:30pm: Therapy Session by Living Well Assisted Living At Home

Kaiser Permanente, 4141 Geary Boulevard Room F2 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94118

Guilt Busters For Caregivers

June 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

forehead-65059_640Caregiving brings about a swirl of feelings and guilt is one of them. As the saying goes, guilt is a useless emotion, says Ruth Folger (*). While that may be true, as compassionate human beings we experience guilt more frequently than we may like, especially when it comes to taking care of an aging loved one.

Caring for the elderly is a frustrating task. You may find yourself getting angry at the slightest things, like having to prepare an extra meal or finding the time to help them change. Then, you start to feel selfish or guilty. These feelings are normal, but in order for you to be happy and continuing to enjoy your elderly loved one while they are still here, it’s important to learn to let go of the guilt associated with caring for them.

  • Don’t feel guilty for not spending enough time with your loved one. Any time spent with your loved one is quality time – time they will be grateful for it. Most often, when you are acting as the caregiver, it is in addition to the full time job you already have. Think about the time you spend with them like a budget. How many hours a week can you put towards visits and phone calls? Making a mental plan of how you will allocate your time can help ease the guilt.
  • Don’t feel guilty for taking a vacation. This is probably one of the biggest fears caregivers carry with them. In addition to not spending enough time with a loved one, you feel the second you leave or go away somewhere that you’re going to get “the phone call.” Thinking this way will only add more stress to your life and make the time that you do spend with your loved one strained. If you want to go away, have a plan in place in case of an emergency, but do not halt your plans all together.
  • Don’t feel guilty when other emotions take over. Do you sometimes feel like you are losing your patience? Some days are more difficult than others, and occasionally your emotions may take over. This is completely normal. No one is perfect and you are allowed to be angry, sad, or tired. Just take a deep breath and remember that it is okay to feel this way.
  • Don’t feel guilty when you find yourself resenting this role. Being a caregiver is a very trying job. Resentment is another emotion that can develop over time. You begin to resent your loved one for the little things they do. You resent that you are in charge of being the caregiver. You resent other members of your family who could be helping a lot more but aren’t. At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are doing the right thing. While something trivial may send you spiraling down the path of resentment, you know deep down that you would have even more resentment if you weren’t helping out your loved one.
  • Don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself or the other members of your family. Do you want to read a book? Catch up on your favorite TV show? Go get a massage? Do it. You deserve to take time for yourself so you can rejuvenate and relax. When you take time for yourself, it can help ease your guilt and the other emotions because you are restarting your mind. You may also have a family of your own, and they need to spend time with you as well. Don’t stretch yourself too thin, but make sure you aren’t neglecting your family or friends because you’re taking care of one of your elders.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you have to put your loved one in a nursing home. No one can do it all, and it is okay to ask for help. As much as you would love to be the sole caregiver of your loved one, with full-time jobs, families, and other obligations, it can be close to impossible. You can relieve yourself from a lot of stress when you find the right healthcare center to move your loved one into. There are many stigmas against senior homes, but in today’s society, most of those are just old wives’ tales. Finding a good senior home can be the best decision you make both for you and your loved one, mentally and physically.

With care giving comes a lot of stress. It is essential that you don’t let the guilt associated with that stress consume you.

(*) Ruth Folger Weiss is a writer for the Westgate Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Baltimore, MD, who shares with us tips for busting the guilt associated with caring for an elderly family member.

 

 

 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 14th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Stop Elder AbuseThis year the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is on June 15, 2016. WEAAD was launched ten years ago, on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. Ten years is not much to harvest the effects of such an initiate but we are grateful, we started somewhere.

We wonder what is what drag human beings to the bottom of acts of violence and lower themselves to inflict pain and injury onto others, including our elders.

Maybe it’s like the dark side of the human coin… that is to say the acts of Caring and compassion are the bright side of human conscience…. and hopefully they will grow more and more. But the other side of that coin (something terrible in human nature,) is the pathway of abuse and cruelty. Hard to say why it is there … equally hard to say how to get each individual to resist that urge in himself/herself.

If only one could root out those tendencies and still have the human being intact… and yet… is it there for a purpose, we can’t yet see?  ~Richard Wiseman

Another author, Arnold Mindell, define abuse as: Abuse is “an unfair use of physical, psychological or social power against others who are unable to defend themselves, because they do not have equal physical, psychological or social power. Whether a process or relationship is abusive depends upon a group’s or individual’s sense of their ability to protect themselves” ~Arnold Mindell, Sitting in the Fire.

We could elaborate on many reasons for abuse, psychological, cultural, social, intergenerational and perhaps not to find a one size fits all to avoid it but at least the purpose of the WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Visit the WEAAD microsite on ACL.gov to become a collaborator. The department of Health and Human Services has created the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) serves as a national resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder mistreatment. First established by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) in 1988 as a national elder abuse resource center, the NCEA was granted a permanent home at AoA in the 1992 amendments made to Title II of the Older Americans Act.

Directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, NCEA is a resource for policy makers, social service and health care practitioners, the justice system, researchers, advocates, and families.

Their mission:

“National, state, and local partners in the field will be fully prepared to ensure that older Americans will live with dignity, integrity, independence, and without abuse, neglect, and exploitation.”

Stop Abuse

Response and prevention strategies for elder and vulnerable adult abuse are numerous and varied. We’ve summarized and collected information about some of the most well-known interventions and response systems. It’s important to remember that ANYONE can help at some level. Learn when and how to report abuse

  • Get help for commonly seen “suspicious situations” involving possible abuse of elders and adults with disabilities
  • Learn about the agencies and organizations that respond to reports of abuse
  • Learn what some communities and multidisciplinary teams are doing to prevent abuse from occurring
  • Explore how the many fields and organizations that serve elders and adults with disabilities may play a role in abuse intervention and prevention

Talk About Abuse

Many of the underlying phases of abuse has its roots in ignoring the feelings of minorities, not reviewing our biases, and using the power of our class or rank to perpetrate abuse and perpetuate abusive situations. A lot of the abuse happens when one does not have enough power to defend ourselves. Thus it creates feelings of hopelessness and distrust in one’s own perception. The most important rule while talking about past or present abuse is not to recreate the same experiences. Thus, as a listener:

  • Be open and attentive.
  • Refrain from any judgment or “objective” comments.
  • Help a person to accept the victim perspective.
  • Do not side with the perpetrator, silent witnesses or even “common sense” point of view.
  • Be kind and gentle.
  • Be aware of the rank issues. Rank is used consciously is needed and helpful in any community but if used for dominate, it will lead to abusive interactions and situations within families, communities, and institutions.

To learn how to prevent abuse through volunteerism and raising awareness, visit the Get Involved section.

Imagine if we could have a world FREE of elder abuse! Help to make it happen.

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group: June 7, 2016

June 5th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

June 7, 4:30pm: Informational Session Presented by Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente, 4141 Geary Boulevard Room F2 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94118

Summer Skin Care Tips For Seniors

June 4th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

summer skin care

Ruth Folger Weiss (a writer for the New Eastwood Rehab and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Easton, PA. shares with us, valuable skin care tips for seniors to practice this coming summer.

For many, summer is one of the most enjoyable times of the year, but the sun rays can potentially be dangerous to all ages and skin types. Because aging skin is so delicate, it is highly susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays and the most at risk. While it’s important to be conscious about caring for and protecting your skin, that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your summer. Discover the secrets of caring for aging skin and create a summer skincare regimen that’s right for you.

  • Make moisturizing part of your routine. Seniors are more at risk of dehydration in the warm weather, so it’s important to moisturize. Find a lotion or ointment that you love and use it around the clock to prevent your skin from drying out throughout the day.
  • Blast away bugs with repellent. Bug bites aren’t fun for anyone, but a senior getting bit can be a tremendously irritating experience. Not only are bug bites pesky and itchy, but you also have to consider the diseases bugs carry. To prevent these issues, apply bug spray every day.
  • Shield with sunscreen. Sun protection is the most important step in a senior citizen’s skincare routine throughout the summer. The sun is harmful to all skin types no matter what age, but can be extremely damaging to the elderly. Apply sunscreen every day as a precaution. If you plan on being out in the sun for an extended amount of time, apply sunscreen liberally and often.
  • Wash away dirt and grime. Washing your face before going to bed is a great ritual to help combat dry and flakey skin. Remember to use face cleanser that contains moisturizers to help prevent dry skin. Using soap alone can strip away the natural oils that your skin produces, doing more damage to your skin than good.
  • Avoid overexposure! Spending too much time in the sun can cause major damage to your skin. Even if you apply sunscreen every hour, you are still at risk for sun damage. If you know you’ll be in the sun for a decent chunk of time, apply sunscreen and wear protective gear, like a wide-brimmed hat or light-weight clothes that conceals as much skin as possible.

You only get one set of skin, so make sure you do everything that you can to prolong its natural beauty. While the summer season certainly presents its challenges for seniors, it doesn’t have to determine whether or not you enjoy the warm weather. Follow this senior skin care regimen for making the most out of your summer!

4 Things to Remember to Promote Positive Mental Health in Your Golden Years

May 21st, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Living Well Senior Care in San FranciscoJim Vogel (*) shares with us 4 things to remember to promote mental wellness in seniors. He says maintaining mental health in your golden years is an important component of overall well-being. Seniors are at risk for memory loss, depression, suicide, and mood disorders. Activities that promote an active body and mind can help prevent these ailments and improve the overall quality of life. As you approach your golden years, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will keep you on the path to wellness.

  1. Retirement isn’t for everyone.

It’s becoming more and more common for seniors to take on part-time jobs as a way to get out of the house, socialize, and earn some extra spending money. Working two days a week as a cashier provides a way to make friends in the form of coworkers and also keeps your brain working as you count back change and help customers with their purchases. It also guarantees that you have a reason to get out of the house regularly.

Working part-time can be hugely beneficial in fighting depression as many seniors find themselves staying home and becoming isolated, whether due to mobility challenges that prevent them from leaving the house, or simply not having a good reason to get out and get moving. On top of these mental benefits, most part time jobs require some physical activity whether it be standing, walking, or lifting. Being physically active even a few days per week ensures the body will stay healthy as well as the mind.

  1. Morning Walks Are a Great Start

Exercise is hugely important to mental well-being as well as physical. Exercise has been shown to have positive impacts in combating the symptoms of anxiety and depression – two common mental health issues which a disproportionate number of seniors suffer from. Rather than paying to join a gym or purchasing a home workout video, simply take a morning walk. Morning walks serve a number of purposes beyond exercise. They coax you to get out of bed every morning, they provide an opportunity to socialize with neighbors, and they guarantee you some fresh air. Starting your morning by greeting your neighbors, admiring gardens and flowers, and breathing the morning air is a great start to a positive day.

  1. Hobbies, new and old, never hurt.

Hobbies stimulate both body and mind and can also create opportunities for socialization. The local senior centers are a wonderful place to find (or teach) craft classes which allow you to enjoy a relaxing activity and also socialize. Attending craft classes let you meet like-minded people who enjoy the same hobbies. What’s more, most senior centers offer access to transportation services, so you don’t have to worry about driving your car or taking public transportation, particularly if mobility is a challenge for you.

Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress, even if done in the comfort of your own home. Things such as knitting, quilting, and crocheting are rising in popularity for their utility. A year of making hats, blankets, and scarves means you can save money on Christmas shopping, too, offering beautiful handmade items with a personal touch.

  1. Seniors get free college.

A number of schools in the United States have free programs for seniors who are returning to school whether or not they are degree-seekers. Lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp and attending college courses has even more benefits. Returning to school part-time or simply taking a class or two that interests you provides an opportunity to socialize with your classmates, plus you have a reason to get out of the house and explore your local college campus.

Furthermore, if you were unable to get the degree you always wanted in your youth, acquiring a degree can bring feelings of accomplishment and pride. Even if your local colleges don’t have a senior plan, many will allow you to sit in on classes for free. It’s never too late to cross things off your bucket list.

Becoming a senior comes with a new set of challenges. Maintaining mental health and physical fitness is a top priority which can become more difficult with age. Though most people consider retirement to be a nice, quiet part of life, it may be in your best interests to stay active. Getting a job, exercising, learning a new craft, or going back to school – all of these things enable a relaxing, enjoyable retirement that’s also healthy and active.

(*) Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.

Thank you Jim and Caroline for your insight. It takes a village to care for our elders.