Asking older adults to hand over their keys is a difficult but necessary part of aging. It is so difficult because it is often a family member or physician, not the elder, who has to make the decision to end an age of independence.
There is a way, however, to make that conversation a little easier. NPR has a story that talks about a way to put elders at the center of the decision making process. It’s called the Advanced Driving Directive:
Some physicians are attuned to the unfortunate position this puts families and caregivers in. Dr. Marian Betz, an ER doctor at the University of Colorado hospital in Denver, has developed a tool she hopes could make the conversation about driving easier: an advance driving directive. Like an advance health care directive, it would designate a trustworthy individual to start the conversation about driving when driving becomes hazardous.
“Lets say Dad’s memory is going and he probably shouldn’t be on the road anymore. If he had written down that he trusted his oldest son to help him make the decision, it would make it easier for the son to say, ‘Dad, look, you told me to take away the keys,’ ” Betz says.
This is a much more person-centered approach to one of life’s more difficult conversations. The important principle here is it is always better to move the decision-making process to include the person being decided upon.
Coincidentally, this is a conversation my family has been avoiding but was recently forced to confront. Just yesterday, my wife’s 88-year-old grandfather was involved in a minor traffic accident driving in downtown Baltimore. He was found to be not at fault but you can imagine how concerned we all were. Especially considering he just drove to Baltimore from Texas last week and will soon drive back.
Whose job is it to broach the subject of giving up the car keys? My mother-in-law? Her brother? Their step-mother? The grandkids – my wife and her sister? Nobody wants to be the one to do it, but they all agree now is the time. And more important, they agree he should be the one to make the decision.