Driving is perhaps the ultimate symbol of independence and control. An elderly person is likely going to feel trapped if they are required to give up driving when they are accustomed to that freedom. Loss of control is a fear for anyone, especially for aging parents, who may be also feeling loss of control of their physical health.
From studies on the subject, we know that most people will relinquish the keys when asked to do so and when the time comes. But there are still a sizable number of seniors who adamantly refuse to even consider it, in spite of accidents, and urgings of family.
If you are facing the problem of an aging parent who should give up driving and you don’t know how to begin, here are some tips:
1. Get in the car with an aging parent whom you suspect is not safe behind the wheel. Observe their driving. They should be able to follow the rules of the road without prompting. Keep notes. Notice how your aging parent handles turning, changing lanes, maintaining safe speed and being alert for oncoming traffic. Your observations can become part of the discussion about your parent’s driving and you can explain why you are afraid of their driving now. Here is a checklist to help you. Driver’s Checklist
2. Acknowledge that this is difficult for your aging parent and approach the subject respectfully. You can say, “Mom, I know this must be hard for you, but we need to talk about your driving.” Then use whatever incidents you are aware of that led you to understand that Mom should not be driving. Accidents, vision problems, dementia, and small strokes can all be very good reasons to give up the keys.
3. Figure out alternative transportation. Whether it will involve hiring a driver, using community-based senior transport services, or having family members pitch in, you do not want to leave your parent feeling trapped and deprived of their normal outside activities.
4. Request retesting for the driver’s license. Many people who should not be driving can’t pass the driving test, but have a license that is not going to expire for awhile. Retesting will reveal that they should stop driving. A physician can make the request as well. Contact your local DMV website to find out what is needed in your state to request retesting.
5. Have a family meeting about the subject of driving. If you are worried, and others in the family will back you up, it may be enough to convince your aging parent to give up the keys. Be politely insistent. The safety of everyone on the road is at stake.
Even if the conversation about giving up the keys is difficult, it is important to initiate it. Your parents may not have the courage to stop driving and may need a prompt from you to take that painful step. Your kind help can keep your aging parent and others a lot safer.