American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Have you planned your retirement from driving?

When should drivers retire from driving? This question is always difficult to answer. In our suburban car culture driving allows seniors to maintain their independence and prevents social isolation. However, at what point does it become unsafe for the elderly to drive and what are the risks?

One month ago my fit and about 80-year-old in-laws were involved in a serious car accident. A young man crashed into the passenger side back corner of their car on the highway as he shifted from right to left lane behind them causing them to lose control, and sending them head on into the concrete median of the highway. He drove away, his car and him unscathed, but my in-laws were not so lucky. Their car was totaled and they were taken to Grady Hospital in Atlanta.

My father-in-law, who suffered a lumbar fracture and contusions, was released after three days. My mother-in-law had more serious injuries. She fractured all of her ribs on the left, her sternum, and subluxed her cervical spine to a dangerous degree requiring emergent decompression and fusion or the cervical spine to prevent spinal cord injury. She stayed in the hospital for one week, and then came to our home to convalesce for another three weeks, requiring physical therapy, home oxygen, a home health aide and multiple assistive devices to help with her activities of daily living. Fortunately, she has done very well, and recently has flown home to Michigan where she will continue to do physical therapy to try to regain her former functional ability, which was fantastic (just before the accident she was giving dinner parties and had planted pansies in my back yard). My father in law was also in great shape--an avid gardener and retired physician. He maintains his medical license and stays current by reading the New England Journal of Medicine.

It would never have occurred to me to caution my in-laws not to drive, either as a physician or as a concerned family member, given their excellent physical and cognitive functioning. However, the accident did cause me to reflect upon the issue of driving and safety for seniors. There are two components of driving risk for the elderly: the risk that a senior driver could present to another person on the road, and that which an elderly driver poses to his or herself.

It turns out that with the aging process, changes in the architecture and mechanics of bones makes them more prone to fracture. Not only are bones more osteoporotic, but also the rib cage changes shape making it more susceptible to injury by frontal force. Loss of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat increase the likelihood of serious injury. My mother-in-law, the front passenger, restrained by a seat belt and cushioned by the airbag of her Hyundai Sonata, certainly was a victim of these physiological changes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the elderly (persons 65 and older) make up 16% of traffic fatalities. As we all know the elderly are a growing percent of our population. What will happen to travel patterns as our population ages?

A study by the AARP in 2012 looked at the impact of the baby boom on travel and recommended research into strategies aimed to address the specific transportation needs of the senior population.

Debra Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy, quoted in the Huffington Post report on this study, said: "People who live past age 70 will outlive their driving years by seven to 10 years on average. The challenge will come when the generation that is turning the suburbs gray hangs up the keys."

Often family members come to physicians asking for help with telling their loved one not to drive. I remember one patient who was 90 and had dementia and severe cardiovascular disease. I recommended to his family that he quit driving after he had several fender benders in town. However, I would have liked for him to stop before the fender benders. There are a variety of resources on line to help guide seniors and their family members on decision making about driving in the elderly. In the case of my in-laws my feeling is that they, and many other octogenarians in similar shape should safely be able to drive. However, given their increased risk of serious injury, perhaps car design needs to evolve to better meet the safety needs of the elderly driver and passenger.

What is your plan for driving and transportation as you grow older? Have you given it thought? Are you confident that you will know when it's time to turn over the keys? Just as middle-aged adults think about retirement, long-term care insurance, estate planning and advanced directives, they should also think about their plan for transportation as they grow older. In turn there is a social need to address how to maintain safe and efficient transportation for our seniors, which enables our healthy octogenarians to maintain independent living for as long as possible.

Here are some helpful resources:
Older Drivers (National Institute on Aging)
Senior Driving (AAA)
Patient and Caregiver Educational Materials (AMA)
Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers (AMA)

Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, is a primary care physician in Atlanta, Ga. Previous to her primary care practice, she served on the general internal medicine faculty of Emory University, where she practiced clinical medicine and taught internal medicine residents for 12 years, and led initiatives to improve the quality of care for patients with diabetes. This work fostered an interest in innovative models of primary care delivery. Her blog, DrDialogue, acts as a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals. This post originally appeared there.

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Blog log

Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:

Albert Fuchs, MD
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.

And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.

Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zackary Berger
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.

Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).

db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.

Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.

Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.

Everything Health
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.

Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.

Glass Hospital
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.

Gut Check
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.

I'm dok
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.

Informatics Professor
William Hersh, MD, FACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, posts his thoughts on various topics related to biomedical and health informatics.

David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.

Just Oncology
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.

Kevin Pho, MD, ACP Member, offers one of the Web's definitive sites for influential health commentary.

MD Whistleblower
Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.

Medical Lessons
Elaine Schattner, MD, FACP, shares her ideas on education, ethics in medicine, health care news and culture. Her views on medicine are informed by her past experiences in caring for patients, as a researcher in cancer immunology, and as a patient who's had breast cancer.

Mired in MedEd
Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.

More Musings
Rob Lamberts, MD, ACP Member, a med-peds and general practice internist, returns with "volume 2" of his personal musings about medicine, life, armadillos and Sasquatch at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind).

David M. Sack, MD, FACP, practices general gastroenterology at a small community hospital in Connecticut. His blog is a series of musings on medicine, medical care, the health care system and medical ethics, in no particular order.

Reflections of a Grady Doctor
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, reflects on the personal side of being a doctor in a community hospital in Atlanta.

The Blog of Paul Sufka
Paul Sufka, MD, ACP Member, is a board certified rheumatologist in St. Paul, Minn. He was a chief resident in internal medicine with the University of Minnesota and then completed his fellowship training in rheumatology in June 2011 at the University of Minnesota Department of Rheumatology. His interests include the use of technology in medicine.

Technology in (Medical) Education
Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, FACP, is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management.

Peter A. Lipson, MD
Peter A. Lipson, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture.

Why is American Health Care So Expensive?
Janice Boughton, MD, FACP, practiced internal medicine for 20 years before adopting a career in hospital and primary care medicine as a locum tenens physician. She lives in Idaho when not traveling.

World's Best Site
Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician who has avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when he first wrote medically oriented computer programs. He is in practice in Tacoma, Washington.

Other blogs of note:

American Journal of Medicine
Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.

Clinical Correlations
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.

Interact MD
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.

PLoS Blog
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.

White Coat Rants
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.

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