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Medical News and Perspectives |

Older Patients: Safe Behind the Wheel?

Anita Slomski
JAMA. 2010;304(17):1884-1886. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1511.
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I would rather tell a patient he has cancer than tell him he should no longer drive. At least with a cancer diagnosis there is hope.” Joanne G. Schwartzberg, MD, director of Aging and Community Health at the American Medical Association (AMA), in Chicago, was not surprised to hear that remark from a physician during an AMA training session on identifying older patients with driving impairments. “Having someone tell you to retire from driving is devastating,” says Schwartzberg. “It's a major life change with very unpleasant consequences,” such as social isolation, loss of independence, and, potentially, depression and anxiety.

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Physicians can play an important role in screening elderly patients for problems in cognition, vision, and motor/somatosensory functions that may affect driving. Depending on the findings, physicians may refer such patients for additional evaluation and driving rehabilitation, and, when necessary, counsel patients to stop or restrict their driving.

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