Cindy McQuown explains the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Program on Brunswick Area Television

Cindy McQuown

Listen (and watch!) as Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional Cindy McQuown discusses senior driver safety and the BDD program to Lori Betz, host of the Golden Years television program from the Brunswick Area Television station in Brunswick, Ohio.

Click here to watch the interview.

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The “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional Certification Program Has Been Approved for Continuing Education (CE) Credits for Florida’s Legal Guardians

Keeping Us Safe in Florida

Keeping Us Safe is pleased to announce that their nationally-recognized “Beyond Driving with Dignity” professional certification program has been approved for Continuing Education credits for public guardians licensed in the state of Florida.

The Florida Statewide Public Guardianship Office, an entity of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, has approved the training and certification program for 10 hours of continuing education credits.  Program approval was managed by CE Broker; the official continuing education approval and tracking system for the Department.

The “Beyond Driving with Dignity” training and certification program has been designed to arm certain professionals with tools necessary to help older drivers and their families work through the complicated issue of age-related diminishing driving skills.

The program is not built around the premeditated goal of “taking the keys away” from an older driver. Rather, the program is designed to help the older driver and concerned family members make appropriate decisions on the future of the individual’s safe driving career.  It is true that in certain circumstances, this may involve assisting the older driver in making a smooth and permanent transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this training program through the Florida Statewide Guardianship Office” says Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe.  “Our hopes are that application of our certification program will ultimately help reduce the number of older driver tragedies in Florida, while simultaneously providing front line professionals with yet another tool in helping older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth and dignified transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat” Gurwell concludes.

This 10-hour on-line course provides attendees with the ability to identify areas of concern involving older drivers, and will assist in the development of attainable lifestyle changes for the older driver that will help keep him or her safe.

If the individual is a safe driver, we provide him or her with strategies on how to remain a safe driver as they progress through the aging process. If driving retirement is the appropriate decision, then we provide the individual (and their family) with acceptable alternatives, resources and a very specific plan to ensure a smooth and successful transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.

More information of the certification program is available at:

The CE Broker website at www.cebroker.com/courses

The course tracking number is 20-497221

The official course name is:  “BEYOND DRIVING WITH DIGNITY” PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s programs, please visit their website at http://www.keepingussafe.org.  Specific inquiries made be made by email at info@keepingussafe.org or by telephone at 877-907-8841

Beyond Driving with Dignity in Florida

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Unique Program Now Available for Social Worker CEU’s in Ohio

Keeping Us Safe Continuing Education

Keeping Us Safe is pleased to announce that their nationally-recognized presentations for social workers is now being offered as Continuing Education (CE) hours in the state of Ohio.  Following are brief descriptions of each presentation:

Bringing a Peaceful Resolve to Complex & Sensitive Senior Driving Issues

This 1-hour educational presentation is designed to provide social workers with the skills and competencies necessary to help an individual (and their concerned family members) suffering from age-related diminished driving skills with the ability to make a smooth transition into a driving retirement, with minimal deterioration to the individual’s dignity or independence.

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia

This presentation, also 1-hour in length, is designed to provide social workers with the skills and competencies necessary to address the issue of dementia-related cognitive decline as it relates to older drivers.  Attendees will gain a further understanding of the role memory and executive functioning play in safe driving, and how dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can have an adverse effect on those critical brain functions and thus on driving abilities.

The presentation includes discussion on recent research projects related to the issue of driving with dementia and will offer potential solutions for the family and for the driver with dementia in their quest to maintain their independence and a healthy lifestyle even after driving cessation.

Pursuant to the rules established by the Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists (CSWMFT), Ohio’s social workers are now eligible to earn Continuing Education credits for attending and participating in either course.

Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, explains that “A fundamental component of our mission is to provide educational support for members of the professional community that may find themselves in the difficult position of helping families deal with this very sensitive and emotional issue.  We are delighted that the State of Ohio has recognized the need for such a program and we are honored that they have entrusted us to deliver this information to Ohio’s social workers.”

Founded in 2008, Keeping Us Safe is an organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. Their programs are designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue. Their services are available throughout the United States and Canada.  To learn more about their programming or to schedule a continuing education presentation please visit the Keeping Us Safe website at http://www.keepingussafe.org or call toll-free 877-907-8841.

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Just How Important is Memory to Older Driver Safety?

Beyond Driving with Dignity

We’ve all done it; gotten ourselves lost while traveling to an unfamiliar area, or even losing our car in a crowded parking lot.  Some of us (myself included) have even gotten lost while using a GPS.  One has to wonder, how is that even possible?  But for an older driver who finds his or herself getting lost in otherwise familiar areas, this decline in memory can be a very significant warning sign that danger may lay ahead.

In the family setting, the issue surrounding the important role memory plays in older driver safety is often understated or even overlooked all together.  For obvious reasons, when we discuss age related diminished driving skills in older adults, we tend to focus on the physical attributes of safe driving (vision, reflexes, strength, flexibility, hearing, etc.), and may overlook the crucial role memory plays in keeping older drivers safe.

Older drivers (and sometimes their family members) have asked “As long as I’m still a good driver, so what if I get lost?  At most it might be inconvenient, but it certainly doesn’t create a safety hazard.”  Unfortunately, this philosophy can sometimes be the furthest thing from the truth.  The purpose of this article is to highlight the important role memory plays in safe driving.

Memory is part of the larger brain function known as executive functioning.  Executive functioning has been referred to as the brain’s CEO, and its primary duty is to oversee such cognitive abilities as planning, concentrating and not becoming distracted, multi-tasking, estimating time, problem solving, making appropriate decisions, prioritizing information and of course, memory.

For any one of us, a significant decline in our memory can lead to disaster if we continue to drive without first making appropriate adjustments in out driving behavior and habits.  Continuing to drive while ignoring noticeable memory decline can lead to tragedy, either through a car accident, or by unknowing becoming an excellent candidate for a victim of crime.

A decline in memory can lead to a tragic automobile accident

Older drivers that get lost may become confused and distracted by their unnerving circumstances.  As they find themselves unaware of their surroundings, they are likely to develop a strong case of tunnel vision.  The older driver may morph into a state of confusion, frustration and fear.  They lose their ability to focus on the task at hand (the physical act of driving) and instead, concentrate on getting themselves back to familiar surroundings.

The older driver’s ability to focus on driving has been overwhelmed by their desire to re-orient themselves.  In many cases, the individual may become scared and often times, tragedy becomes imminent.

On a normal trip and in familiar surroundings, this same individual is likely to be a very good driver.  But now lost and confused, scared and distracted, driving focus has been thrown out the window in hopes of simply regaining their bearings.

Earlier this summer, Fox 8 News (Cleveland, Ohio) reported that an elderly female driver became confused while she was driving one evening, so she stopped and parked her car in the northbound lanes of Interstate-71.  Moments after she exited the vehicle, it was struck and crushed by a semi-truck.  Fortunately, the truck driver suffered only minor injuries but imagine for a moment how much worse this story could have ended.

The Dayton Daily News reported “Police are looking for a 93-year-old man with dementia who went missing from his Cincinnati home early Thursday”.  Sadly, the next day’s headline read “Missing Ohio man dies in Michigan car crash”.

And who can forget that dreadful headline on the front page of The Washington Post a few winters ago that read “Elderly couple found frozen to death after getting lost on drive”.

A decline in memory can also lead to an increased likelihood of victimization

Just last week, CNN reported “93-year-old Tuskegee Airman robbed, then carjacked on same day”. airman

The story continued “A 93-year-old Tuskegee Airman struggling to find his daughter’s house in St. Louis was robbed and then carjacked minutes later.  The World War II veteran got lost while trying to find his daughter’s home Sunday morning and pulled over to call her.  That’s when a suspect got into his car in broad daylight and robbed him. The assailant fled in another vehicle.  The victim tried to track down the robber but to no avail, so he pulled over again to ask two men for help.  Those two men then carjacked the elderly man.”  Police report that the car was found two days later.

And there are other concerns

Imagine this scenarios.  Physically, your aging mother is still a relatively good driver, but you have noticed some lapses in her memory lately.  During her weekly trip to the grocery store, she (and all other traffic) is being detoured by the police because there is a tree down across the roadway ahead.  Now suddenly she is on an unfamiliar road and in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

The string of detoured traffic she had been following have disbursed themselves onto tributary streets and mom finds herself lost.  Focused on finding her way, her defensive driving skills begin to suffer.  Out of the blue, a younger driver runs a red light and strikes your mom’s car in the middle of a busy intersection.

The police arrive to investigate and are deceitfully told by the younger driver that “the elderly lady ran the red light”.  In turn, mom explains to the officer that she was lost and does not remember what happened in the accident.  She can’t even answer properly when the officer asks her which street she was on and which direction she was going.  Are you confident that the investigating officer and subsequently, the insurance companies, are going to conclude properly in mom’s favor?

A Note about Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

It should be noted that an older driver diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) (different than dementia) may still be able to continue driving safely.  A recent article by WebMD reported that “A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia does not mean that the person needs to stop driving immediately.”  The article goes on to suggest that their condition be re-assessed every six months because the disease because the dementia is likely to progress.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Capital District Health Authority & Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS, Canada)…within 5 years of diagnosis, approximately 50% of those diagnosed with dementia will be involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Conclusion

Working memory is an important driving quality that enables a mature driver to perform such functions as follow driving directions, rules and regulations, make good decisions while behind the wheel, and of course, not getting lost.

Memory is critically important to an older driver’s safety.  If you have an aging loved-one that is getting lost driving to otherwise familiar locations, it may be time to give further consideration to the individual’s ability to remain safe as a driver.

Epilogue

Concerning the Tuskegee Airman story mentioned above, the following article since appeared in Rare; America’s News Feed:

Earlier this week, the nation was shocked to hear about a man who was the victim of not one, but two crimes this past weekend.  A 93-year-old Tuskegee Airman (who has asked to remain unnamed) was driving to his daughter’s house in St. Louis when he got lost, so he pulled over to call her and ask for directions. It was then that a man robbed him of his cash.

The veteran followed the thief in his car, only to lose track, so he pulled over a second time.  He spotted two men and asked them for help only to have those two men carjack him before driving off with his 2012 Honda Accord.  Police have since found hiBeyond Driving with Dignitys car, abandoned about a block from where it was stolen, damaged but drivable. They are still searching for the criminals responsible.

Americans were angry that a war hero could be the victim of two such horrible crimes, and the front office staff for the St. Louis Cardinals knew that they had to do something. Calling him an American hero that we all owe a debt of gratitude to, they pledged
to provide him with the full VIP experience at a Cardinals game, and asked that he throw out the first pitch as well. The veteran will be given tickets, a field visit, and hopefully, a good night with his family and a group of baseball fans happy to show this man how much his service is appreciated.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators in American military history, and flew during World War II.

About the author:  Matt Gurwell is founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC,  a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.  Please visit their website at http://www.keepingussafe.org/ or 877-907-8841 for additional information on their programming. 

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Preventing Parking Lot Tragedies Involving Older Drivers

On the day before Thanksgiving, the story headlining Pittsburgh media outlets read “Pittsburgh woman who had been due to give birth was fatally struck by an elderly driver in a Rite-Aid Pharmacy parking lot”.

The New York Daily News further reported that Jodie Guthrie, 30, was outside the pharmacy when an 88-year-old driver pushed the gas instead of the brake and struck and killed the expectant mother, leaving the newborn child in critical but stable condition.

In January of this year, Margaret Tilly, 74, was “crushed and killed” after her 81-year-old husband backed into her after she got out of their car in a fruit market parking lot in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.

As reported by the News-Herald, “Mrs. Tilly, was standing next to the vehicle to help guide her 80-year-old husband into a parking spot. The passenger door of the vehicle was open, when her husband accidentally hit the gas pedal, sending the car in reverse. The passenger door knocked Mrs. Tilly down and she was run over.  She later died at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.”

Introduction

According to a report by the Erie Insurance Company, twenty percent of all accidents happen in parking lots. What’s more, 52 percent of injuries resulting from back-over accidents occur in parking lots.

Parking lots are home to a flurry of activity in a relatively small amount of space. Add unique layouts, traffic patterns that vary by parking lot, bicyclist and pedestrian traffic, and it’s easy to see why so many accidents happen in parking lots.  Personal injury attorneys often refer to parking lots as “accident magnets”.

Why do these types of tragedies happen and is there anything we can do to prevent them?  Why do so many of them involve older drivers?  Those are questions that come with no easy answers, but opening a dialog on the subject is certainly a good starting point.  The purpose of this article is to initiate thought and conversation on the issue in hopes of generating new ideas and bringing additional awareness to a safety concern that affects all of us.

This article is not meant to address the issue of older drivers and storefront crashes, nor is it meant to address the science of parking lot design.  Our aim here is to simply create a discussion on the issue of older driver safety in parking lots.

As such, this article could best be outlined as follows:

  • Four causes of parking lot tragedies involving older drivers
    • pedal misapplication
    • driver inattention or distractions
    • backing errors caused by strength and flexibility declines
    • declines in vision
  • Tips for older drivers in preventing parking lot crashes
  • Summary
  • Additional resources

In no way is this article meant to be an assault against older drivers.  Make no mistake about it; the phenomenon of parking lot crashes is not unique to older drivers.  The problem is that older drivers are grossly over-represented in parking lot tragedies.

Four Causes of Parking Lot Tragedies Involving Older Drivers

Parking lots can often be places of chaos, confusion and, occasionally, tragedy.  Although complex in nature, there are some common factors that consistently show themselves in these types of crashes.  Let’s take a quick look at four reasons these tragedies occur and why older drivers are involved in so many parking lot crashes.

1)  Pedal misapplication

In its simplest terms, pedal misapplication is nothing more than “confusing the gas pedal for the brake pedal”.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in crashes involving pedal application errors, there is significant over-involvement by the youngest (age 16 to 20) and oldest (76 years of age and older) drivers.  Both of the tragic stories mentioned above involved pedal application errors.

Keeping Us Safe Pedal Misapplication

The term “pedal application error” gained popularity after the 2003 crash in Santa Monica, California, when an 86-year-old George Weller pressed the accelerator instead of the brake, launching his Buick into a crowd of shoppers at an outdoor market, and killed 10 pedestrians and injured 63 others.  “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; he was hitting people and they were just flying,” said one witness.  “You would think it would have slowed him down, but it didn’t.”  A subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the Farmer’s Market crash was caused by the driver’s “inadvertent acceleration when he intended to brake”.

Although many possible explanations exist for every incident of pedal misapplication, declines in an older driver’s physical abilities (neuropathy, etc.) as well as declines in cognitive functioning (dementias, etc.) are prominent contributing factors.

2)  Driver inattention or distractions

In Oklahoma City last July, a 3-year-old child was struck and killed in a McDonald’s parking lot by a driver that was reportedly “distracted” by another vehicle.

As we age, we can experience more difficulty in dividing our attention among multiple tasks and in switching rapidly from one task to another. Difficulty in task management (declines in executive functioning) can be especially dangerous when maneuvering a vehicle through a busy or poorly designed parking lot.  Monitoring a GPS or vehicle navigation system, tuning the radio or even listening to conversations among passengers can prove most disruptive.

Parking lots are very busy places and they can be rather stressful.  Dodging near misses, getting cut off, searching for that perfect parking spot, avoiding run-away shopping carts (and children!) and the like can quickly task even the sharpest drivers.  An older driver’s ability to keep distractions to a minimum is paramount to his or her safety, as well as to the safety of other parking lot users.

By their very nature, parking lots are a haven of outside distractions.  In addition to those “naturally occurring” distractions, NHTSA confirms what we already know; driver distraction from secondary (in-vehicle) sources is increasingly recognized as a significant cause of injuries and fatalities.  Listening to the radio or carrying on an in-depth conversation with your passenger only serve to erode your ability to focus on the naturally-occurring distractions that a parking lot presents.

3)  Backing errors caused by strength and flexibility declines

As we age, it is not uncommon to lose certain physical attributes that are important for safe driving, particularly in our strength, coordination, range of motion, flexibility and reaction time.  All of these attributes contribute to the ability of an older driver to remain a safe driver.

WebMD reports that from the time you are born until around the time you turn thirty, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your thirties, you begin to lose muscle mass and function.  People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age thirty.

Keeping Us Safe-Older Drivers Exercising

Studies consistently show a positive link between an older driver’s flexibility and their driving performance.  As part of a September, 2014, story in the Hartford-Courant newspaper (Hartford, CT) titled “Older Drivers Benefit from Exercise”, a 74-year-old retiree explained “It’s harder to turn around now to look for blind spots,” he said. “Backing up is a real issue too.”

The article was based on a study conducted by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab, and looked at the effects of exercise on older drivers’ strength, flexibility, coordination and range of motion.  The study found that drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared to a group that did not exercise.  The exercise group could also rotate their bodies further and were able to get in and out of their cars with greater ease, which translates to improved flexibility.

For all of us, regardless of age, it is a good practice to eliminate or at least minimize backing wherever possible.  Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, reminds us to “Avoid backing maneuvers whenever possible.  If we were meant to be good backer-uppers, our driver’s seat would be facing out the back window”.

4)  Declines in vision

The natural aging process is not always kind.  In addition to a propensity to lose some of our strength and flexibility, our vision begins to change as well.  Eventually we may lose our ability to distinguish details and our field of vision can begin to narrow. Obviously, declining eyesight is likely to have an adverse effect on critical driving functions.

A narrowing of our visual field makes it harder to see objects on the edge of our visual field such as signs, signals, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.  The density of our eye’s lenses increases, making it hard to see in low light conditions.  We may have increased sensitivity to glare, making it hard to see in the presence of oncoming headlights at night or in the presence of sun glare in the daytime.

Keeping Us Safe-Vision and Driving

On December 15, 2015, KTLA-5 in Los Angeles led their newscast with “Woman Fatally Struck by 91-Year-Old Driver in Post Office Parking Lot”.  A Los Angeles police detective reported “The driver did not see the woman”.

The root cause of older drivers reporting that they didn’t “see” a pedestrian in the parking lot could stem from a number of sources.  Authentic vision concerns can include anything from refractive errors, age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma, to cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or a decline in peripheral vision.  Consideration should also be given to the fact that ninety percent of the information we need to respond to driving cues comes through our eyes, making vision the single most important sense for safe driving.

In a project by the National Safety Council (NSC) titled “Understanding the Distracted Brain”, researchers found that distracted drivers have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects.  Distracted drivers experience what researchers call inattention blindness, similar to that of tunnel vision.  According to the study, drivers are looking out the windshield, but they do not process everything in their driving environment, which significantly limits their ability to effectively monitor their surroundings, seek and identify potential hazards, and respond to unexpected situations.

Tips for Older Drivers in Preventing Parking Lot Crashes

So what can the older driver do to mitigate the likelihood of being involved in a parking lot crash?  Below is a cursory list of suggestions:

  • Use only pull-through parking spots; don’t park in a spot that you will have to back out of!
  • Take-up enjoyable activities like gardening, swimming, walking, etc. to help keep you in good physical shape.
  • Talk to your doctor about recommended exercises designed to maintain the flexibility and strength needed for safe driving.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any type of peripheral neuropathy, especially in your hands or feet.
  • Remain vigilant and expect the unexpected (child running in front of your car, etc.).
  • Consider vehicle adaptations to mitigate the potential of an accident (oversize rear view mirrors to help eliminate blind spots, adjustable foot pedals, etc.).
  • Correctly set the outside mirrors. Consider adding blind spot mirrors to the side mirrors.
  • When possible, park away from other cars, and don’t park in a spot that you will have to BACK out of!
  • Do not drive if you are taking medications that might impair your judgment, vision, reflexes, etc.
  • Take advantage of new technology such as parking assist features, collision avoidance systems and rear view cameras (which can be added after-market).
  • Remain alert to cars reversing by watching for backup lights. If a car begins backing up, get out of the way or make sure the driver can see you.
  • Use only pull-through parking spots; don’t park in a spot that you will have to back out of!
  • Practice good defensive driving skills.
  • Shop on lower volume days, which equates to less parking lot congestion. The Time Use Institute reports that the least crowded shopping days are Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Wear appropriate shoes for driving and make sure your floor mat is positioned properly.
  • Keep the windows clear and void of obstructions; use the vehicle’s defrosters to your full advantage.
  • Tap your horn (similar to a back-up warning system found on construction vehicles) before backing.
  • Eliminate as many in-vehicle distractions as possible (turn the radio off, discontinue conversations and remember to leave any pets at home).
  • Lastly…use only pull-through parking spots; don’t park in a spot that you will have to back out of!

Summary

Parking lot crashes involving older drivers can be caused by any number of contributing factor(s), including but not limited to driver inattention, distractions from either inside or outside of the vehicle, declining muscle mass, medication issues, pedal misapplication, mental fitness and declines in cognition, medical emergencies, pre-existing medical conditions, declining vision, fatigue, poor flexibility, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, improper seat or mirror positioning, improper blood sugar levels, or in some very rare cases…just plain carelessness.

Beyond Driving with Dignity-Older Drivers

This is the first article in a three-part series that addresses the issue of parking lot tragedies involving older drivers.  Simply by having a better understanding of the dangers parking lots pose, remaining vigilant and applying any number of the tips listed above is sure to improve parking lot safety for older drivers and pedestrians alike.

In our next article, we will take a critical look at crashes involving older drivers driving into storefronts, examining why they occur and what steps can be taken to reduce their likelihood.  And in our final article we will review steps that older drivers can take to keep themselves safe after they have successfully parked their car and are now pedestrians in the parking lot.

To receive our future articles please subscribe to the Keeping Us Safe blog at https://keepingussafe.wordpress.com/

Additional Resources

Flexibility Fitness Training for Improving Older Driver Performance (AAA)

The Role of Exercise in Older Driver Safety

Older Drivers and Emerging Vehicle Safety Technologies

Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers (NHTSA)

______________________________________________________________

Authored by Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC. Matt works with older drivers to help them determine whether they are still safe drivers. Visit the Keeping Us Safe website at www.keepingussafe.org to learn more about their Enhanced Self-Assessment Program, designed specifically for senior drivers, or to schedule a presentation for your group, business, or organization.

If you are interested in becoming one of North America’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals, click here.

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Cleveland, Ohio Nurse Receives National “Bill & Betty Fresch Outstanding Achievement Award”

Keeping Us Safe is proud to announce that Lisa Profio, LPN from Cleveland, Ohio, is the recipient of the 2014 “Bill and Betty Fresch Award for Outstanding Achievement”.

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families throughout the United States and Canada.  Its ‘Beyond Driving with Dignity’ program is designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with the very challenging issue of an elderly parent’s diminishing driving skills.

Keeping Us Safe-Lisa Profio

Lisa Profio, LPN

A North Royalton resident, Profio has been a nurse for 38 years and also runs University Hospitals Parma Medical Center’s Club for those with early stage memory loss.  She received her “Beyond Driving with Dignity” professional certification from Keeping Us Safe in February, 2012.

“Lisa is most deserving of this award” says Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe.  “Lisa’s professional experience, compassion and empathy have made her very effective in helping older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.”  Gurwell adds.

As a “Beyond Driving with Dignity” professional, Profio serves as a facilitator for Keeping Us Safe’s ‘self-assessment program’ for older drivers.  This individualized program has been designed to serve as a valuable tool in helping older drivers (and their families) make appropriate decisions regarding the future of one’s safe driving career.  The 3-hour, one-on-one session is typically conducted in the comfort of the older driver’s home.  The session includes an in-depth learning conversation, several cognitive exercises, and an actual driving exercise with the older driver that takes place in his or her own car.

The award is named after the late Bill & Betty Fresch, who died in a Pennsylvania farm field after becoming lost on what was always a routine 40 minute drive home from their daughter Jo Rinehart’s residence.  The January 13, 2011, Washington Post article reporting the tragedy read “Elderly couple found frozen to death after getting lost during drive”.

Keeping Us Safe and the Fresch family have since partnered to help similar tragedies from happening to other families.  “The Fresch family has been very gracious in sharing their very difficult story with others” says Gurwell.  “As difficult as it is to talk about the incident, they have risen above that and see the sharing of their story as an opportunity to help others deal with this very delicate and emotional situation, before tragedy strikes their family” concluded Gurwell.

Keeping us Safe-Bill and Betty Fresch

Bill & Betty Fresch

Jo Rinehart and Paul Fresch (daughter and son of Bill & Betty Fresch) were honorary guests at the ceremony and explained “We are honored that our parents’ names will live on in this way through the Keeping Us Safe programs, and that our story will continue to help other families with the difficult discussions and decisions they must make.  Our sincere thanks and very best wishes to Ms. Profio as she continues her work as one of Keeping Us Safe’s certified ‘Beyond Driving with Dignity’ professionals.”

“Lisa was selected as the recipient for this award because of her long history of enriching the lives of older adults.  In addition to being very well respected in the community, Lisa also exemplifies the standards and core values of Keeping Us Safe.  Her compassion and empathy when working with older drivers and their families make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat make her an invaluable asset to the Keeping Us Safe team.” says Gurwell.

Laura Matthews, ElderCare manager at University Hospitals Parma Elder Center (and longtime friend of Lisa’s!) explains “The beauty of the Keeping Us Safe program is that it helps older adults make good decisions about their driving skills while preserving their dignity, potentially saving lives.  Lisa takes wonderful care of our families!”

Congratulations Lisa!

Keeping Us Safe-Lisa Profio Award Presentation

Paul Fresch, Jo Rinehart, Nancy Schuster (last year’s award winner) and Matt Gurwell gather to help recognize Lisa Profio for her outstanding achievement!

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The Role of Exercise in Older Driver Safety

Keeping Us Safe Exercise and Older Drivers

Introduction

We all know the value exercise plays in helping to keep us healthy as we age.  Studies have shown that aerobic exercise alone can improve overall brain function (particularly memory) and can even increase brain volume in older adults.  The effects of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and a host of other conditions can certainly be mitigated by regular physical activity.

Sometimes though we tend to overlook the positive role exercise plays in helping to keep seniors safe behind the wheel as they progress through the natural aging process.

Exercise can help improve an older driver’s flexibility, coordination, strength, balance and range of motion.  Simple stretching exercises can help an older driver look left or right more easily to check their blind spots, or to help ensure a safe lane change.  Exercise can also help an older driver turn their neck and body to look behind them before backing.  How many tragedies have we read about where an older driver backed over a pedestrian in a parking lot or in some cases, a family member in their own driveway?

A Quick Note About Falls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of three older adults (65+) fall each year.  Even the most basic exercise program can help develop stronger muscle tone which can help older drivers get in and out of their car more easily.  Just as importantly, a well-attended exercise routine can also help prevent falls in the home.

A recent study conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine and the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama (Birmingham), reported that older drivers who fell two or more times in the prior year were 1.5 times as likely to be involved in an automobile accident, and a whopping 2 times as likely to be involved in an at-fault accident.

Additional Research

In recent years, a tremendous amount of research has been conducted highlighting the important role physical exercise plays in helping our aging population remain safe drivers.

A 2014 study by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab looked at the drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily.  The study participants reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared with a similar group that did not exercise.  The exercise group could also rotate their bodies easily to scan the road when making right hand turns compared with non-exercisers.

In a study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (2011), researchers in Portugal found that significant positive effects were observed in participants of an exercise program.  In this particular study, improvements were found in all driving tasks, but particularly in driver reaction time.

The Bottom Line

One of the most effective ways to extend your safe driving career is through an exercise program.  Contact your community’s YMCA or senior center to see what classes and programs may be available in your area.  Consider enrolling in a Tai chi class or a local wellness program.

Marketers have coined the term “exergamers”, which references older adults who are Keeping Us Safe Exercise for Grandparentsusing Xbox, Wii and PlayStation gaming platforms as an entertaining way to exercise, often times in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.  A blog post titled “Why Wii Fit is Best for Grandparents” appeared in the Well section of the NY Times website and told of a study in which an 89 year old woman with a balance disorder and a history of falls significantly improved her scores on a series of balance tests after just six sessions of Wii Bowling.  For good reason, many senior centers are now equipping their facilities with “exergaming” systems.

There are many online resources available to offer tips on exercise and safe driving.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety offers a free brochure titled “Flexibility Fitness Training for Improving Older Driver Performance”.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Senior Health website offers specific exercises on improving endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.  Of course, remember to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

If you would like help finding exercise resources in your community, please contact Keeping Us safe at 877-907-8841 or by email at info@keepingussafe.org.


Authored by Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC. Matt works with older drivers to help them determine whether they are still safe drivers. Visit the Keeping Us Safe website at www.keepingussafe.org to learn more about their Enhanced Self-Assessment Program, designed specifically for senior drivers, or to schedule a presentation for your group, business, or organization.

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Free Informational Webinar: Become Certified as a “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional

Beyond Driving with Dignity Training Webinars

Keeping Us Safe has released the December schedule of introductory webinars for individuals interested in becoming one of the nation’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals.

The webinar is for qualifying professionals interested in:

  • Making a positive difference in your community
  • Learning a new skill that will challenge and reward you at the same time
  • Being challenged on an interpersonal level as you problem solve for families
  • Expanding the current marketing reach of your business or non-profit organization
  • Making yourself or your organization even more marketable to your internal and external customers
  • Becoming part of an emerging, national team of experts in facilitating Keeping Us Safe’s “self-assessment program for older drivers™”

In addition to saving lives, it is worthy to note that becoming certified in the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program is an excellent way to further your personal revenue stream, or to further the professional revenue stream (and marketing efforts!) of your business or organization.

If you are interested in becoming part of our team, we cordially invite you to join us for this 30 minute, quick-paced, informational webinar on the benefits of becoming certified in this nationally-recognized program.  These complimentary webinars will be offered as follows:

  •  December 3, 2014 at 7PM (EST)
  •  December 9, 2014 at 2PM (EST)
  •  December 18, 2014 at 11AM (EST)
  •  December 22, 2014 at 3PM (EST)
  •  December 30, 2014 at 1PM (EST)

To register for any one of the webinars please visit: http://keepingussafe.org/becomingacbddprofessional.htm.

For more information on the certification program you may also download our brochure at:  http://keepingussafe.org/linked/brochurebddprofessionalcertification011314.pdf

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s programs, please visit our website at http://www.keepingussafe.org.  Specific inquiries made be made by email at info@keepingussafe.org or by telephone at 877-907-8841.

 

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Columbus Dispatch Article: “How to persuade an elderly relative to stop driving”

Keeping Us Safe-Columbus Dispatch

The article appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on November 14, 2014, and made positive reference to Keeping Us Safe’s “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” for older drivers.

The author, Joe Blundo wrote…

Matt Gurwell, a retired trooper for the State Highway Patrol, has a Cleveland-based business, Keeping Us Safe, devoted to being the third party who, when necessary, delivers the bad driving news.

For $350, he (or another staff member) will meet with elderly drivers for a three-hour session, much of it devoted to assessment of their cognitive skills, such as memory. If he thinks it’s safe, he’ll ride with clients to see how they do behind the wheel, too.

“Two-thirds of the people actually retire from driving during the session,” he said.

Two years ago, Laura Cox of Westerville hired Gurwell to assess her mother, a Cleveland resident who was 77 at the time and showing signs of impaired memory. She had, for example, become lost on the way to a familiar Walmart.

At the end of the assessment, Gurwell told her that she needed to give up the keys, and — much to Cox’s relief — she agreed.

“She was still mad as heck at me when he left,” Cox said, “but I wasn’t so much the bad guy anymore.”

Read the entire article here.

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When to Put the Brakes on Your Loved-One’s Driving

 

Keeping Us Safe-Alzheimer's Foundation of America

 

Keeping Us Safe will be presenting “When to Put the Brakes on Your Loved-One’s Driving” to family caregivers as well as healthcare professionals as part of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s ‘Care Connection’ program.  The segment is scheduled for November 13, 2014.

Care Connection, is a national telephone support network for family and professional caregivers sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America—a national non-profit organizations whose mission is to provide optimal care and services to individuals affected by dementia and their families.

“It is an honor to have been selected to participate in the AFA’s Care Connection program” says Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe.  “Addressing the issue of a driving retirement with a loved one can be a very sensitive and emotional issue and must be handled with tact, empathy and compassion.  I am very excited to for the opportunity to share some helpful tips and suggestions with Care Connection listeners.”

Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Keeping Us Safe is a national organization with a mission of providing practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families as they face the challenging issue of age-related diminishing driving skills.   “Our ‘Beyond Driving with Dignity’ program provides concerned families with the missing link between their desire to bring the driving issue to a peaceful resolution, and their ability to actually do so.”  Gurwell added.

Care Connection allows family caregivers and professionals nationwide to gain valuable education from guest speakers on a vast array of topics as well as to connect with other caregivers from across the country.  Plus, they can get much-needed help and advice from the comfort of their own homes or jobs.  As well, Care Connection offers CEUs for professionals who are part of our Dementia Care Professionals of America division.

The teleconference is scheduled for 1PM (EST) on November 13, 2014.  To join the conversation or to learn more about the Care Connection program please visit http://www.alzfdn.org/AFAServices/careconnection.html

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