Driver Rehabilitation Program Offered at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro

March 29, 2012

Program for those affected by aging, stroke, brain injury

SAN PEDRO (Oct. 19, 2011) – People who want to determine their driving skills after suffering strokes, brain injuries or age-related changes now have an option to help them stay behind the wheel as long as they remain capable.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro has developed a Driver Rehabilitation Program to help individuals determine whether it is safe to resume or continue driving due to disabilities or aging. Older adults or people with the following conditions also qualify for the program: arthritis, amputations, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries or cognitive or vision impairment.

“Getting behind the wheel without all of the necessary skills could lead to serious accidents or tragedies,” said Huong Anh Ngo Long, medical director of Rehabilitation Services at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro. “We are very pleased to offer this program because it can provide family members peace of mind to know if it’s safe for their parents, grandparents or other loved ones to be on road. It is also a refresher driver’s course for seniors.”

Stroke brain injuries can affect the areas of the brain that control the abilities necessary for driving. Those can include: visual perception skills, problem solving abilities to reaction time, coordination, flexibility and concentration.

Strokes are the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Nearly 800,000 people suffer strokes each year and approximately 1.7 million people experience traumatic brain injuries.

Participants in the program are evaluated by certified driving rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists and certified driving instructors. The team evaluates the patient’s physical, sensory and cognitive abilities including: reasoning, judgment, decision-making, reaction time, problem-solving ability; functional mobility, strength, coordination and night vision. Behind-the-Wheel road tests are performed to assess safe handling of a vehicle in a “real life” environment. Following assessment, the team will prescribe a program and provide training for those who are able to regain safe driver status. The team also will prescribe adaptive equipment for people requiring a refit of their vehicles. This could be as simple as an extended rearview mirror, a left-foot accelerator or hand controls, or as sophisticated as voice-activated computerized equipment. All participants must have valid driver's licenses or a permits. Those without licenses can get assistance to obtain one-day permits for the evaluation.

“This program will help keep individuals with physical disabilities and seniors as independent for as long as possible,” said Karen Frederick, director of Rehabilitation Services. “We will work with them to enhance their quality of life and increase their independence through a driving program tailored to their unique needs.”

Program participation requires a physician's prescription. Participants can also be referred by family members. For additional information, please contact the hospital’s Rehabcentre at 310-514-5370.