Getting a driver’s license is a momentous event for a teenager, and most people treasure the independence that being able to drive allows them.  Unfortunately, as we age, our ability to drive safely can sometimes become compromised by medical conditions, like dementia or a stroke, or physical conditions, like impaired vision and slowed reflexes. During my over twenty-five years practicing Elder Law in North Carolina, family members have often expressed concerns to me about their aging parent’s ability to continue driving safely.

Because a loss of a driver’s license comes with a loss of independence, raising the topic with an aging family member is difficult. A doctor or another concerned person can notify the North Carolina DMV Medical Review Program if they feel that a person has medical conditions that makes it unsafe for them to operate a vehicle. Reports to the NC DMV are not anonymous so it may be best to first discuss these concerns with your aging family member rather than reporting them directly to the DMV.

If you and your parent or aging family member disagree about their ability to safely drive, one option is for the senior to undergo testing to assess their driving abilities. In North Carolina, Duke Health offers a Fitness to Drive Screening in which a person’s ability to perform tasks necessary for driving is assessed. This screening test can provide valuable information to people with dementia or other conditions that may affect their ability to drive safely.

In addition to giving up their car keys, clients with dementia or other conditions associated with advanced age may need assistance with paying their bills and managing their finances. Signing a Durable General Power of Attorney ensures that a trusted child, family member or friend can step in and help with financial and legal tasks if necessary. Likewise, if a person becomes unable to communicate with doctors or effectively make decisions about their medical care due to Alzheimer’s Disease, a stroke, or other condition, signing a Health Care Power of Attorney ensures that they have an agent in place to make those medical decisions for them.

Amanda Spence has been practicing Elder Law and Estate Planning in Raleigh, North Carolina for thirty years.   She works with clients in Wake, Johnston, Harnett and other counties throughout North Carolina. To schedule a consultation with Ms. Spence call  (919) 863-4183 or email her at