KUSA - Doctors often wait too long before talking to elderly patients about their driving abilities, according to a new study from the CU-School of Medicine and CU-School of Nursing.
The study says many doctors often wait until there's a red flag - like an accident or some other physical problem - before having conversations about whether elderly patients should drive.
"Driving is linked to independence and asking for someone's keys is very emotional," said Dr. Marian Betz, the study's lead author. "Studies have shown that most people outlive their ability to drive safely by more than six years."
The study - published last week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine - involved focus groups and interviews with 33 drivers older than 65 years old and eight health care providers.
While the study found that many doctors or nurses tended to wait until 'red flags' to bring up concerns about their elderly patients' driving abilities, it also found that many older patients were open to these discussions.
By the same token, many elderly patients said they didn't believe their providers were aware of their driving status or ability.
Betz recommends that health care providers start having conversations with elderly drivers earlier, such as when drivers turn 65 and are eligible for Medicare benefits.
"It's not just about taking the keys: it's about making plans," Betz said. "Drivers in our studies reported needing help in preparing for that transition, including learning about transportation alternatives."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)