Yikes! The conversation about handing over the keys is never a welcome one, no matter what the age. From the first day you hit the road solo at 16 years old, there’s nothing else that can really give you the same sense of freedom and independence. That’s why it’s so hard to decide when older adults should stop driving — especially when they’re your parents.
AARP states these guidelines, or red flags, to look for:
- Delayed response to unexpected situations
- Becoming easily distracted while driving
- Decrease in confidence while driving
- Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic
- Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up
- Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage or mailbox
- Having frequent close calls
- Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions
These are a strong list of things to watch out for. And from our own personal experience, we’ll add this one:
• Getting lost easily and needing to call someone for help
If you feel like you are on the precipice of this situation, here are some things that might help.
Talk, Talk and Talk some more.
Your parent(s) probably won’t like it, but easing into the conversation will help them start thinking about it. It’s probably not good to just march in one day and take their keys. But if you notice they are being hesitant about getting on the freeway, or they’ve had a couple of “dings”, use that as an opportunity to ask them “What will you do when you get really uncomfortable driving?” And have the conversation. Be sure you HEAR them and recognize the feelings they are having. It might sound something like this. “Dad, I’m noticing your hesitancy to get on the freeway lately and that concerns me. How are you feeling about that?” Just simply getting the conversation going is important.
Transition into it.
Suggest ways to help them ease into giving up driving completely. Maybe they only drive during the day, or only drive in a certain radius of their home. Maybe you take them to doctors appointments and the grocery store for a while to get them used to someone else “taking the wheel”. Then eventually, you can partner with a home care professional to take over if necessary. Yes, they may be resistant, but if you emphasize that it’s for their safety and the safety of others, it will help them at least try.
Talk to their doctor.
Sometimes it helps to get a doctors opinion. Just as children will take the same advice from others that they refused from their own parents, parents will do the same with their adult children. If you’ve already been attending appointments with them, great. If not, this might be a more difficult route to take. However, it might be another conversation to have.
At the end of the day, we can’t stress enough how important it is to keep communicating with your parents about important life topics. Strong, open and meaningful relationships between parents and children will make every phase of life more enjoyable and easier to navigate.
The Nursing Team is here to help in whatever way we can. If you find yourself in a caregiving situation, don’t hesitate to call Tom Chastain, owner of The Nursing Team and Home Care Advocate. He and his team will provide a free consultation to talk with you about our services.