Herrick Hospital offers driving program for seniors


Sandra Harsh (right) acts as an occupational therapist for Kris Owens while using the driving simulator machine in order to test driving skills. The machine is one of the components of the Road to Independent Driving program at Herrick Hospital. Submitted photo.

Older drivers will no longer have to travel to Toledo, Ann Arbor or bordering cities in order to find assessment for its driving skills. ProMedica Herrick Hospital has initiated its Road to Independent Driving Program, where the patient works with an occupational therapist to evaluate their visual and cognitive ability to drive. If the evaluation is passed, the patient is given a final road exam to assess their driving skills to see if adaptations are needed.

Sandra Harsh, the occupational therapist in charge of the program, uses a two-step evaluation to assess if drivers meet the legal qualifications for operating a motor vehicle. Patients are given tests to determine the strength of their visual acuity and peripheral vision.

“We want to evaluate their self-care skills of driving,” Harsh said.

Thinking skills, strength, range of motion and coordination are also determined during the clinical assessment. A driving simulator is used to test reaction time. If all these tests are passed and the patient has a valid driver’s license, the therapist may take the patient on the road for an actual, real-time assessment of driving skills.

After the assessment, Harsh relays the results of the evaluation to the patient’s physician, who makes the final determination on whether the patient can drive or not, or should go through basic training for driving. “Our patients are passing the tests, so the physicians who refer them are glad of that reassurance,” Harsh said.

Kris Owens, manager of rehabilitation at ProMedica Bixby and Herrick Hospitals, says the program gives physicians evidence on the driving skills of patients, as it can be difficult for a doctor to determine if a patient can or cannot drive with simply an office visit. “We’re determining if the impairments effect their ability to drive,” Owens said. “We wanted to have this program available here in Lenawee County, so patients follow through with their physicians recommendations and obtain the assessment.”

The cost of the program is covered under most insurance companies, and requires a prescription from a physician. “It’s cost effective for a patient, to be able to have this program right in their backyard and not have to travel to Toledo to get this done,” Owens said.

“We’re able to assure our seniors are maintaining independence in a safe manner,” Harsh said.

More information on the Road to Independent Driving Program can be found by contacting Herrick Total Rehab at 424.3239.


Tecumseh Herald


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Tecumseh, MI 49286

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