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.
T. Amissah says
What an excellent suggestion of having advanced driving directives! Older adult can assign whomever they choose (whether a spouse, friend, or relative) to take the initiative to start the conversation about dangerous driving. Of course older adults do not want to feel like their independence and freedom is being taken from them, but when conditions become concerning, like getting lost in familiar places or a family member notices new dents on their loved one’s car, then driving conditions definitely need to be addressed.
This is a touchy topic for seniors, but driving safety, for themselves and others, is always a top priority. Older adults are often stereotyped for having poor driving skills making them feel as if they are being attacked. When considering how to approach such a delicate topic, a team should be brought in to perform a proper assessment, with the first person being the appointed advanced driving directive person; secondly the older adult’s primary doctor should perform a few examinations; thirdly an optometrist should be visited to check for cataracts and reaction times. A comprehensive assessment is needed in order to make a final decision about whether it is the right time to stop or restrict driving; or find other solutions that may help with any impairment in regards to driving.