Nobody wants to take away a parent’s car keys. On the other hand, nobody wants to lose a parent to a fatal car accident either. Many people lose the ability to drive safely as they get older, and few volunteer to give up the keys. It’s difficult to face age-related losses. Do you know how to talk to your parents about not driving anymore? The most important things are to get informed and to stay compassionate.
Everybody has occasional lapses on the road so how can you tell when to be concerned about a loved one’s driving? Important warning signs of unsafe drivinginclude the frequency of such lapses, such as an increase in the number of warnings or citations, an increase in close calls or minor accidents or missing familiar turns more often. Two or more incidents per month or any marked change from what was normal for your parent is cause for concern.
Age, all by itself, does not rob someone of the ability to operate a car. However, older people are at a higher risk for health problems that do interfere. Sometimes vision loss or other issues can advance so slowly the elder doesn’t even notice the change. That is why you have to be the one to broach the subject.
Proper medical treatment and self-care, together with a few coping strategies, can often keep seniors behind the wheel longer. The first step when you notice warning signs of unsafe driving should be to encourage your parent to see a doctor and a driving rehabilitation expert. The problem might be correctable.
The best person to determine if your parent’s driving days are over is a doctor or a driving expert. Most people are more willing to accept such devastating news from a neutral expert than from a family member. If your loved one cannot drive safely but refuses to give up the keys, you may be able to ask your motor vehicle department to re-evaluate his or her license, depending on current state law.
The important thing to remember is your parent is going to be upset. Be compassionate and affirm and support your loved one’s autonomy, never treating him or her like a child. There may also be practical problems you can help solve by brainstorming other ways to get from place to place. Public transportation, walking, biking or creating a ridesharing network with friends could all be options. Isolated seniors can consider moving to an assisted living facility because these offer transportation for residents.
Residents of the Oklahoma City area can contact the Village at Oakwoods to explore the benefits of coordinated transportation in assisted living. Besides basic medical care, cleaning, laundry and other services, all at affordable prices, the facility also includes plenty of fun amenities. With a beauty salon, a theater, a library and plenty of social opportunities, not driving gets a little bit easier.