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Driving assessment tests can provide peace of mind

Staff writer

Do you have concerns about a loved one’s ability to drive safely but you don’t know how to address the issue?

Therapy departments at local hospitals offer driving assessments and can give a professional opinion or recommendation.

Nicole Sampson, occupational therapist at St. Luke Hospital, said assessments might be recommended for patients already in therapy. Also, if family members have concerns, a doctor can order an assessment.

The driving assessments at St. Luke are done in the therapy room. Patients are screened for traffic sign recognition and basic driving rules. Their functional strength and coordination also are noted.

A computerized program checks eight prerequisite skills for safe driving, including visual acuity, leg strength and general mobility, head and neck flexibility, visualization, and route planning.

The testing often is done in two sessions.

Afterward, Sampson may recommend more evaluations, driving restrictions, or no more driving.

She said the recommendation is discussed with the patient and the family, but only a physician can make the decision to have a person’s license revoked.

She occasionally recommends the patient have an in-car evaluation at the motor vehicle department.

Devona Roble, the occupational therapist at Hillsboro Community Hospital, said she does an evaluation of a person’s cognitive abilities.

If a person has cognitive issues, she makes a recommendation. If the individual or the family want a second assessment, they are referred to Prairie View in Hillsboro for a computerized evaluation that measures attention, concentration, and mental processing speed. Psychologist Phillip Miller is available twice a week to administer the test.

Tests for senior citizens at therapy departments are covered by Medicare insurance. Prairie View assessments require an out-of-pocket cost.

Sampson said driving assessments help patients and families to make informed decisions.

“People need to be aware the service is available,” she said. “It can give peace of mind to families. It can be a way for families to get help in getting a member off the road and keeping them safe.”

Last modified Jan. 22, 2015

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