If you have a parent or other elderly loved one whose
driving skills are getting shaky, it might be time to give them ‘the
talk’. While we all know what ‘the talk’
refers to when it comes to adolescents, when it involves aging drivers, it
refers to the realization that it might be time for them to relinquish their
It’s a subject people dread broaching with parents and other
elderly loved ones. For that reason, it’s often avoided long past the point
where they might become a danger on the road.
If you’re facing this difficult task, you might wonder how best to go
about it with the least amount of conflict and hurt feelings.
An article in the New
York Times Health titled ‘The Car Key Conversation’ tackles the subject
head on. According to them, 29% of adult children in a research study reported
that discussing their parent’s funeral plans was easier than talking to them about
relinquishing their driving privileges. Another 18% said that moving into
assisted living and selling the family home was an easier subject to broach
with their parents than the driving issue.
Experts say that most important thing is to begin the
discussion before the situation gets critical.
By gradually easing into the subject, you give them a chance to adjust
to the necessity of giving up driving when their ability to safely negotiate
the road becomes impaired. Be compassionate and realize that driving represents
freedom and mobility. Keep the
conversation non-confrontational and stress that you will help them find other
means of transportation that will allow them the mobility to continue to do the
things that matter to them, like getting together with friends, exercising,
shopping and getting to medical appointments.
The website Caring.com
says: “For many older drivers, giving up the car keys is a drastic and
life-altering change -- limiting where they can live, whom they can visit, and
what interests and activities they can pursue.”
What follows are some tips to help make the discussion about
and transition to non-driving easier:
Gather several close friends and relatives and use the intervention
method to discuss their driving impairment. In a non-accusatory way, you can
jointly express your concern for your parent’s safety, as well as for the
safety of others. Oftentimes, this group
approach will help dissolve their denial about their loss of driving ability.
Help them craft a schedule of their travel needs and find
alternate transportation for them. This will help to assure them that they
won’t be isolated and alone just because they can’t drive.
If they deny that they’re having trouble driving, take them
for a driving and vision test at the local Department of Motor Vehicles. If
they fail either portion of the test, their license will be taken away on the
spot. If they’re able to pass, then they
get a green light to continue driving, but make sure that you take them back to
get tested again in six months.
If all of the above tactics fail and they refuse
to stop driving, you might need to confiscate their car keys, or their vehicle.
It’s a difficult step to take, but it’s necessary to ensure their safety and
the safety of others with whom they share the road.