Jacobs, Schwalbe & Petruzzelli, P.C.
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The struggle to keep senior parents safe on the road

“If you live to be my age, you will see,” the 85-year-old New Jersey resident says. "You can’t do anything. You can’t go anywhere...sometimes you need a change of scenery.”
That desire for a change in scenery is when danger rears its head. The nation was in the middle of the Great Depression when Dolores was born. World War II was still a decade away. Television didn't exist yet. So when the octogenarian gets behind the wheel of a car, her daughter worries that her mom could cause a car accident that injures or kills someone.

Last winter, Dolores was in her car waiting as a police officer made a traffic stop. She grew impatient, though, and pulled into the next lane to pass the cruiser. As she started to go by the police car, she looked to see who the officer was talking to -- that momentary distraction was enough to cause her to slam into the front section of the cruiser.

When her daughter heard of the crash, she thought that it might turn out to have a silver lining. Perhaps the police would take her mom's driver's license away now. Instead, Dolores didn't even get a ticket. Her mom's insurance company behaved as if the crash was not a big deal, and the local body shop was glad to help.

The Stratford resident has a "mild to moderate cognitive decline,” her doctor says, but Dolores is still driving all these months later.

The daughter and her sibling worry that they might be held liable if their mother is involved in a car wreck that results in injuries or a fatality.

Like many others with senior parents, they are struggling with how to convince a beloved older person to stop driving. There is no approach that works for everyone, experts say. People age at different rates and hang on to their physical capabilities and mental sharpness to varying degrees as well.

This is a safety issue more and more of us will be confronting as baby boomers hit retirement age and beyond.

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