When Seniors Can No Longer Drive

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A new program sponsored by the American Medical Association will help families recognize when an elderly loved one should hang up the car keys. Working with gerontology and other medical and driving experts across the country, John Flynn, a medical student at the University of Virginia, is developing a series of pamphlets that doctors can distribute in their offices and use as starting points for discussions on what can be a difficult and emotional topic for seniors and their relatives. The top medical conditions that affect an older person's ability to drive include Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cataracts, diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration (deterioration of the retina), Parkinson's disease, the use of sedating medications, seizures, sleep apnea (difficulty breathing while asleep), and a history of strokes. "The goal of this effort is not to stop the elderly from driving," says Joanne Schwartzberg, MD, of the AMA. "We have to be realistic about the impairments from chronic illnesses that mount up as we get older. We want to provide the best information possible so families and physicians can make difficult decisions together."