Talking to your Aging Parents about Their Driving

Posted by Mike McQuinn on September 14, 2015 | no comments

It is never easy to talk to your elderly parents about hanging up their car keys. For some parents, it’s the last bit of independence and control they have in their lives. Yet for their safety and the safety of others on the road, it’s imperative to take action. The problem becomes even more difficult since many elderly people do not recognize their decreased ability to drive. Others may simply refuse to admit that their skills have diminished.

Speak with empathy

Never address your parents as if they were children or tell them what they are going to do. Gently breach the subject early when you first suspect there is a driving issue. Your primary role is to help your aging parents decide on their own to give up their cars. Put yourself in their place to realize how difficult it is for the elderly to stop driving. Choose a time when everyone feels calm rested and relaxed. Avoid issuing any kind of deadlines.

Be prepared to answer common concerns

Prepare for the discussion ahead of time. Elderly parents are going to have many concerns. Their fears are legitimate and you should take them seriously. Be prepared for issues like living arrangements. Can they continue to live where they are? Will they be able to continue their current friendships? Will they be able to continue to participate in activities and interests that they enjoy?

Know the signs

You need to observe their driving habits to determine their current driving ability. Common signs that it is time to stop driving include an increase in driving tickets, getting lost more often, or easily becoming angry behind the wheel. Failure to yield often increases and many have obvious problems driving at night. Some have problems during the day when the sun is glaring. The lack of physical strength or the freedom of movement can be an issue.

If it appears driving needs to stop, the first step is a complete medical exam. Your parents may suffer from undetected medical issues easily resolved with treatment. Vision problems, inability to hear well, physical limitations or even medications they are currently taking can impede driving skills. Decreased mobility and strength can make driving more restrictive.

It is possible that your parents need to stop driving only under specific circumstances. Unless their driving has become a life or death situation, it is not time for you to force them to stop. Instead, you should listen carefully to their fears and concerns and respond appropriately. They need you to provide some genuine transportation options versus them driving themselves.

Provide Alternatives and Support

Elderly parents do not want to feel like a burden. Do your best to alleviate those feelings by enlisting as many family members and friends as possible to help willingly. Provide bus and shuttle service information. Introduce them to new activities that they might enjoy that do not involve driving. While you do not want to demand that your parents relinquish their keys, you do need to be proactive.

Although, your parents may not want to give up driving, they do not want to be a danger to others on the road. If the time has come that their driving is extremely dangerous, it is important to take action right away. Approach them with the intent of convincing them to give up their car. Act as a support system for the anticipated frustration they will deal with in the beginning. If all else fails, you may have to temporarily disable their car or hide the car keys.

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