When someone you love has a stroke, regaining independence as quickly as possible is usually one of the main goals. When it is your aging parent suffering, you long to be able to help him or her regain that independence as quickly as possible. One of the most important forms of independence our aging parents have is their ability to drive. Luckily, most people recover from stroke well enough to be able to drive again. You can assist by making sure your aging parent completes extensive stroke rehabilitation. There are assessments that will help alleviate your concerns about whether or not your aging parent should be driving after a stroke.
The importance of driving
Because driving is almost a necessity in most locations, stroke victims are often anxious to regain the privilege as quickly as possible. While strokes can be debilitating, there are adaptive technologies available to counter any physical challenges caused by the stroke, if your parent’s doctor clears him or her for driving. If your aging parent has lost the use of a limb or is partially paralyzed as the result of a stroke, equipment can be installed in the vehicle that allows the steering wheel to be controlled with one hand; a gas pedal can be installed on the left if the right leg is no longer capable of depressing the gas. Precautions must be taken; your aging parent will need to learn how to drive using the adaptive technology and should not just be thrust back out on the road without ensuring that he or she is capable.
Of more concern are the cognitive challenges our parents may face after a stroke. There are warning signs to watch for that may indicate that your parent should not be driving after a stroke. If he or she fails to observe the speed limit (by driving either too fast or too slow), ignores stop signs or stop lights, has difficulty judging distance or stopping on time, becomes lost, confused, or angry when driving, drifts across lanes, or has accidents or near misses, he or she should not be driving.
You can help your aging parent by being involved in the rehabilitation. There are specific stroke rehab driving programs that do assessments and theapy to prepare people for driving after strokes. Find out if they are available in your area. Talk to the doctor or nurse and ask whether or not the stroke would impair your parent’s driving. Talk to the Department of Motor Vehicles where your parent lives. It may be a requirement of the DMV that they automatically retest or place restriction on a license because of a stroke. Enroll your aging parent in a driver refresher course; there may even be driver rehabilitation courses in your area, so ask your DMV about the possibility.
Never allow your parent to go against the doctor’s orders and drive if instructed not to. Not only will this put your parent in danger, but also it could make him or her ineligible for auto insurance and prevent coverage of an accident. The good news is that most stroke victims are able to recover, and with rehabilitation, and in some cases modifications to the vehicle, can resume driving.
Important stroke information
The American Stroke Association recommends everyone be aware of these signs of a stroke:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headaches with no known cause