How to Approach a Parent About Giving Up the Keys
Giving up the car keys can be one of the most traumatic events in an older person’s life.
Not only does it symbolize the loss of autonomy and mobility, it can also affect one’s social life, dignity, and self-esteem.
As we age, our reaction time and vision can change. First, make sure your parent has had a recent examination from her physician and eye doctor. Health changes, new medications, corrective lenses, poor depth perception, slow reflexes, disorientation are but a few of the reasons for giving up a drivers’ license.
According to a 2007 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, older drivers, based on miles driven, “are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than all but the youngest drivers.”
So, there comes a time when families are faced with having to talk with an older loved one about giving up driving, for their own safety and that of others. How do you do this and minimize a senior’s feelings of resentment over lost independence?
Talking about discontinuing driving will be a negative topic. Low-key discussions held over a long period of time, and discussing alternative transportation arrangements could prove helpful. Be patient with your parents, realizing that they are losing much of their independence and control. This may stir up anger, resentment, sadness and even depression. On the other hand, it could also be a relief.
Comfort Keepers offers these tips:
Build a case. If you feel safe doing so and have not done so in a long while, ride in the car with your parent at the wheel. Get a sense for whether your intuition is right or not. It may turn out that your parent is a safer driver than you suspected. However, if your hunch bears out, you will have at least one reference point to go to when you talk with your parent.
Refer to recent headlines - local or national - about accidents caused by elderly drivers. This can help you transition into a discussion about your parents driving.
Approach the conversation with compassion, making it clear that you are motivated purely by concern for your parents well-being.
Rely on others’ help when you feel you cannot convince your parent on your own.The senior’s physician may provide an evaluation and a prescription to cease driving due to safety concerns. A geriatric assessment and driving assessment could also be arranged DriveLab (www.drivelab.ca) is an example of a programme that provides driving skills evaluation). A friend who has already given up driving can offer the reassuring voice of experience.
Offer your parent alternatives to driving. For instance, volunteer to take your parent to church or to the grocery—and have other family members and friends help out. Or suggest a professional caregiving service, such as Comfort Keepers, which provides clients accompanied transportation to appointments and other needs. Other alternatives include, Mobility Transit, volunteers from your parents’ place of worship and regular or wheelchair taxis.
Straight talk that allows your parents to feel like adults with a say in the matter will have a better chance for success. Assuring your parents that they will still be able to get around with the help of family or a caregiver may ease your discussion.