Taking The Keys Away From Your Aging Parents

Have Mom or Dad come dangerously close to getting into an accident recently? If so, it may be time to have another one of those “talks.” Though it’s never fun to discuss, driving can become increasingly difficult for a variety of reasons as you age, and sometimes it’s best to find an alternative mode of transportation and convince your parents it’s time to stop driving themselves.

​Like many serious issues, taking the keys away is a very tough decision. Unlike some of the other issues though, this one tends to sting when brought up, and you may have a difficult time to convincing your parents, even if all the signs are there. Just as it was when you were 16, driving offers the chance for independence. When an adult has to give up driving themselves, it may make them feel helpless, restless and frustrated. It may also be a wakeup call that they are indeed getting older. As always, the best approach for this talk is to be sensitive and compassionate.

According to the National Institute on aging, there are some critical indications that a senior is or has lost the ability to drive safely. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Getting lost frequently, even while driving on familiar roads
  • Failing to use turn signals or keeping them on without changing lanes
  • Trouble reading street signs or navigating directions, due to vision loss
  • Decreased peripheral vision, even with corrective lenses
  • Erratic driving, such as abrupt lane changes, braking or acceleration
  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Failing to use turn signals or keeping them on constantly without changing lanes
  • Struggling to maintain speed or drive as higher speeds
  • A series of at-fault accidents or scrapes or dents in the car from minor accidents
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • Not looking over the shoulder to check lanes, trouble shifting gears, or confusing the gas and brake pedals

If you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to open the floor to discussion. Difficulty driving can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including a decreased range of motion and mobility; chronic conditions such as arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes and more; medications that cause drowsiness or other side effects, and hearing or vision loss. It could even indicate the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

To begin the conversation, consider forming a plan of action. Anyone present for the discussion should be on the same page. It’s important not to be unintentionally condescending so keep the tone how it would be between two able-minded adults. Also, be sure there are no accusations, since this will only inflame the situation and make mom or dad upset.

Once you’ve all come to terms on a decision, it’s essential you find alternative transportation for your loved ones. From taxi and bus services, to volunteer-driven services, there are many options out there. Try reaching out to your area office on aging for more information on free or discounted transportation for seniors.

Remember, giving up your keys is a huge sacrifice in freedom, and it is imperative your loved one continue on with their regular schedule and remain as active as possible. A significant decrease in activity could contribute to isolation and even depression. And above all, don’t forget to voice your support and love. It can make all the difference in the world.

About the author
Scott Ogburn

MEd, MDiv, CSA

CarePatrol of Richmond, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg and Newport News

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