“Should My Parent Be Driving?”
If your elderly parent is no longer a safe driver, a hard conversation about their driving could be the difference between life and death. However, convincing them that their driving is unsafe is almost always a challenge. Before jumping in, there are a few things you can do to help your senior be more receptive to the idea of turning in the keys:
First, do an unofficial ride along and assess their driving.
At the next opportunity, hop in the car with them and see how they fare. Avoid correcting their mistakes or letting them know that you’re assessing their driving habits, in order to get a better idea of how they normally drive. Look out for these red flags:
- New signs of unsafe driving, such as dings, dents, or scratches on the car. (If you see these, ask your parent about them. If they do not remember how the car was damaged, this is an even bigger red flag.)
- Patterns of traffic tickets, warnings from police officers, and increased insurance rates due to multiple accidents
- Reluctance to drive at night or in bad weather
- Hesitation, slowed reaction time, confusion about traffic signals and signs
- Mood and behavioral changes that occur while your parent is driving
- Getting lost in a familiar place, repeatedly forgetting where they parked
With a first-hand look at their driving, documented proof of their unsafe roadway behavior, and a gentle approach, your parent may be more open to suggestions.
Brainstorm about alternative transportation.
Put some thought into how your parent can remain social and active. Many seniors imagine life without a vehicle as depressing, isolated, and boring. Your parent will be far more receptive to the idea of giving up driving if you present viable alternatives that will help preserve their quality of life.
Encourage them to enlist the help of friends and family members before suggesting that they rely exclusively on alternative transportation. If they have already begun to carpool with friends or be driven to family dinners and appointments by family members, it will ease the transition from independence to dependence.
For ideas on alternative transportation for your senior, look over this list of affordable options.
Pick a time and stick to it.
Don’t procrastinate! This is for your senior’s safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. Waiting too long puts your senior at risk of unnecessary injury or death.
Avoid picking an ambiguous time, such as “before next Christmas,” or “before Dad turns 70.” The sooner, the safer.
Location and timing are also key. Pick a time when your senior will be most able to concentrate and hear you out. If you pick a busy, stimulating environment, such as a family gathering, party, or public place, it will be too easy for your senior to either tune you out or become too distracted to listen to you.
Try to talk things through, but be prepared to take away the keys.
Should all else fail, take an official route. If your senior refuses to relinquish their right to drive, there are ways to keep them off the road without confiscating their car keys. When your parent is hostile to the suggestion that they cannot safely drive, a more official avenue may keep them off the road without jeopardizing your relationship. (Click here for more information on how to legally confiscate your elder’s keys.)
However, force is a last resort when dealing with a loved one. Once they are unable to drive, dependence on others will increase and family relationships will become especially important. Home-bound seniors also tend to feel isolated and depressed if they are not closely connected to friends and family members. This is why it is crucial to do everything in your power to maintain a good relationship with your senior, even when making difficult decisions to keep them safe.
Put yourself in their shoes.
Do you remember how you felt when you got your driver’s license? By the time your parent is of advanced age, driving is no longer exciting, but it still brings a sense of freedom, control, and dignity.
Consider the way that they might feel and begin to imagine life without independent transportation: trapped, isolated, unable to enjoy recreational activities, worried about getting to necessary appointments, and so on. Also assure them that they can continue to be active, social, and out of the house on a regular basis.
Your parent will likely be more receptive to having a conversation about safe driving than being confronted about their unsafe driving. According to the National Institute on Aging, it is most effective to use “I” messages, rather than “you” messages (i.e. “I am concerned about your driving safety,” rather than “You are no longer a safe driver”) when addressing their driving difficulties.
Be part of the solution.
You are your senior’s best advocate. When there isn’t a clear answer to safe transportation or other age-related setbacks, your help is critical. Take the time to research, offer suggestions, and take steps to be involved in keeping your senior healthy, safe, and active. Your senior will thank you for it.
If you need additional help taking care of your aging parent, let us help. Our Registered Nurses are available to provide a complimentary assessment of your senior’s needs, and our skilled, qualified, compassionate caregivers are ready to step in and help keep your senior safely at home.
For more information on how A Care Connection can serve you and your parent, browse through our services, contact us with your questions by filling out the form below, or call us at (904) 899-5520.