How to Talk to Elderly Parents About Giving Up the Keys

Talking to a Senior Parent About No Longer Driving

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Being able to drive is an incredible source of independence, self-sufficiency, and freedom. It is no wonder then that talking to your elderly parent about giving up the car is a conversation all parties involved dread. Unfortunately, physical and cognitive impairment caused by the aging process can make driving a car a dangerous proposition for the driver, his or her passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and property. Independence is important, but safety must come first when the two cannot be effectively balanced.

When talking to your aging loved one about this issue, keep in mind the following helpful tips:

  • Be respectful: Recognize that this is an incredibly difficult transition. Be polite, but firm. Remind your loved one of your love for him or her and your concern for the safety and wellbeing of others on the road.
  • Give specific examples: Illustrate how your loved one’s diminished abilities are affecting his or her ability to drive safely as evidenced over a period of time.
  • Don’t have the conversation alone: Encourage other family members and friends who have witnessed your elderly parent’s driving skills decrease to join you when discussing your collective concern for his or her safety and the safety of others on the road.
  • Help identify alternatives to driving: Fear of isolation and dependency is real for an elderly driver who gives up the keys. This can be alleviated by public transportation, ride sharing with family, friends, or neighbors, community shuttles and senior transit services, assistance from an Albuquerque home care agency, or motorized wheelchairs if local streets and sidewalks are safe and stores, houses of worship, senior centers, and family and friends are nearby.
  • Understand the difficulty of the transition: Do not minimize your loved one’s feelings about losing his or her ability to drive. If it is reasonably safe to do so, you may encourage a gradual transition from driving to alternative forms of transportation. An occupational therapist or certified driving rehabilitation specialist can assess the driver and recommend concrete steps to ensure the driver’s and the public’s safety. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and The American Occupational Therapy Association are great places to begin one’s search for qualified experts.

If an elderly parent still refuses to give up his or her keys, you can make an anonymous report of the driver’s condition to the Department of Motor Vehicles or contact the driver’s physician directly. In extreme cases, taking away car keys, disabling a vehicle, or asking the police to intervene may become necessary, though such options should be last resorts as family conflict may likely escalate.

One way you can help your loved one during this transition is by reaching out to Home Care Assistance. Our experienced Albuquerque caregivers can provide transportation, run errands, and help with a number of routine tasks on a part-time or live-in basis. Learn more by calling 505-798-0800 and requesting a complimentary in-home consultation.

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