Northwestern Medicine offers Driver Rehabilitation Programs at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital for patients who have disabilities or health issues that hinder safe driving. Specially trained occupational therapists assess patients to understand their challenges and to identify and implement solutions to help them drive safely.
“Frequently people understand driver rehabilitation as being for older adults, but the scope is so much larger,” says Stephanie Salentine, MS, OTR/L, MOL, manager of Rehabilitation Services at Marianjoy. “We support patients across the age span for driving and help them adapt driving to a range of disabilities, including both apparent and nonapparent disabilities. We can adapt the vehicle for patients, we can identify challenges, and we can educate patients on independently incorporating strategies and behaviors to address those challenges.”
“Driving is a multisensory experience, and we’re able to help people in many ways,” Salentine says.
The Marianjoy program is a state-certified driving school that can work with teenagers and others who do not have driver’s licenses, as well as those who do. The program has three occupational therapists who specialize in driver rehabilitation and driving instruction.
An initial driver rehabilitation visit has two parts and lasts up to three hours. The driver rehabilitation therapist conducts a driver evaluation — a comprehensive clinical assessment of the patient’s vision, perception, cognition and motor function. If appropriate, the therapist then leads the patient through a behind-the-wheel evaluation of their driving ability in a vehicle adapted for safety. The evaluation may include trying adaptive equipment to help the patient.
Through this process, the therapist determines if the patient can drive safely with or without adaptive equipment. The therapist also might determine that the patient would benefit from further training; should have restrictions on their license; or should not be driving. The therapist then discusses the results with the patient and family and submits a report to the referring physician.
Patients must follow up with their ordering physician to receive medical clearance to drive. If adaptive equipment is recommended, the program will work with a mobility dealer to facilitate purchase and installation of the equipment.
Northwestern Medicine welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with you in caring for your patients.