There are many difficult conversations that you will have with your family, but few are as brutal as telling a parent or grandparent that they can no longer drive their vehicle. A vehicle represents more than just transportation, it is independence that allows a person to go where they want, when they want without relying on companion care or you.
With nearly 50 million seniors in the US, it means that more people over the age of 65 are on the road. At some point a senior will need to stop driving their own vehicle, but the question is when? There is no federal law in place that requires a senior to be retested based on their ability. Each state has its own mandate requirements for seniors. So what are the signs that might indicate your loved one should consider handing over the keys?
As a family caregiver, son or daughter, the best way to evaluate your parent’s ability is to sit down in the car with them and have them drive to a routine destination. Keep an eye for the following:
• Slow reactionary times
• Drives slower than normal traffic
• Gets lost along the way
• Has trouble parking between the lines
Other signs include dents or dings that “appear out of nowhere” or a habit of losing their keys. These signs should trigger looking into having your loved one retested for their driving ability. When having the conversation, it helps to avoid the age issue and instead focus on specific areas that you’ve noticed their decline in driving ability. Keep in mind that many of the causes are not age itself, but conditions such as impaired vision, use of medication, or other limiting mental or physical conditions that are affecting their ability to drive.
Also offer alternatives to getting around. In most communities there are alternate methods of transportation to help them get where they need to go.
- Bus or Train
- Taxi or Uber/Lyft
- Family & Friends
Public transportation is inexpensive but limited and time consuming. Taxi and ride-shares offer direct transportation, but is more expensive, and relying on family, friends or companion care can be embarrassing. So, be sure to work out something first before talking to the senior.
If you are having difficulties with communication with your loved one, seek professional help. Your relationship with a parent or grandparent can get in the way of expressing how important it is for them to stop driving. This is why having a professional with insight into the problem can be so helpful. You should contact at least one of the following that they see.
- Optometrist or Ophthalmologist
Even help from the State Department of Motor Vehicles can assist with statistics and other pertinent information that can help convince them to give up their keys.
The best way to convince someone is to have them believe it is their idea. Your conversation with them should focus on their driving and not their age. You can cite any traffic tickets or accidents they have had which contribute to the idea that they should not be behind the wheel.
In the end, if a senior loved one presents a danger to those on the road, then you will have to take their keys one way or another when all other approaches have not worked. It is not only their life, but the lives of those they may harm that should guide your actions. Remember, you are not taking away their independence and moving them to a senior care facility, you are protecting them and others on the road.