Seniors and driving… it is one of the most challenging topics adult children must face. When is the right time for your parent to stop driving? How do you initiate the conversation? Can the conversation be had without anger and resentment creeping in? Assessing your loved one’s ability to drive safely isn’t easy and talking about the possibility of giving up the car is even more difficult. For your parent’s safety and the safety of other drivers, it’s important to remain engaged in this part of your loved one’s life.
Determining when a loved one needs to stop driving is the first step. There are several ways you can assess your loved one’s ability behind the wheel. Start by accompanying them in the car. Let them drive and quietly watch. Are they nervous while driving? Are they aware of the environment around them? Are they fatigued after driving? Some seniors willingly curtail their driving to daytime hours and favorite routes. If your loved one is cutting back on their own, this is a sign they are aware of their limitations and monitoring their own abilities.
Have you noticed any new dings or scratches on your their car? While normal wear and tear is expected, new dents and scratches can be indicators of bigger concerns. When assessing your loved one’s driving, casually ask about tickets, driving violations or if their insurance rates have changed. These can all be signs that driving has become a struggle.
For one family, the increased occurrence of accidents was a major contributor to the decision to discuss limiting their loved one’s driving. “She had had three accidents in three months. She was nervous behind the wheel and we were worried about her safety and the safety of others,” explains Jen DeFranco of Palatine, IL.
For many seniors the thought of giving up the car fills them with anxiety. How will they get to their weekly golf game? How will they shop or get to the doctor? What if there isn’t public transportation nearby, how will they cope? Imagine how you would feel in their situation. Don’t make declarative or alarmist statements; it will only induce stress and anger on your loved one’s part.
Keep your discussion casual and expect that it will take place over more than one meeting. Perhaps in the beginning it’s a casual discussion of needs and how often they use the car. You can also discuss any concerns your loved one may have concerning giving up the car. Let them lead the discussion so you have a clear view of their thoughts and feelings on the issue. As the discussion progresses, you can broach the subject of limited driving or giving up the keys completely.
If you believe it’s time for your loved one to stop driving, be prepared to offer solutions to their mobility concerns. DeFranco offered her mother-in-law a variety of solutions to allow her to limit her driving. She explains, “We’ve encouraged her to only drive in town and on days when the weather is clear. We’ve set up a grocery delivery service, carpools to her favorite activities, and the family helps by taking her to other places she needs to go.”
You don’t want your loved one to be a shut-in. Be realistic about your ability to accommodate their needs. If being your loved one’s primary driver isn’t an option, consider hiring an elder care provider to assist with driving tasks. “We help many seniors maintain their quality of life by providing transportation to favorite activities, weekly outings, the store or doctor appointments,” explains Larry Meigs, President and CEO of Visiting Angels. “Our elder care providers become a lifeline for those who no longer drive.”
Whether you decide to be your loved one’s primary driver or if you hire an elder care provider to provide driving assistance, the most important thing is to keep your loved one safe. Make the time to have this important discussion and find solutions that work for your family.
Article provided by Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services