How to Navigate the Driving Conversation with an Aging Parent
From a young age, we are taught that driving is a sign of independence. We can’t wait to get our license, and once we do, we can’t imagine ever having to give it up. However, many drivers reach a time when the physical and mental effects of growing older make it difficult to drive safely.
Encouraging your parent to hand in the keys can be difficult. In fact, a poll conducted by Caring.com found that for 36% of adult children, talking to their parents about no longer driving is the conversation they dread most, even more than discussing funeral plans! Talking to your aging parent about driving can be difficult, but there are ways to make the process go smoothly.
While the youngest drivers (ages 16 to 19) still have the highest crash rates per mile, drivers over the age of 70 can begin to see changes in their driving skills that potentially pose a danger to themselves and others on the road. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Stiff joints or arthritis that makes it difficult to turn the shoulders and neck
- Slower reflexes that prevent braking or avoid obstacles in time
- Trouble with hearing or vision
- An increase in traffic tickets or accidents, even “fender benders”
- Side effects from medications that may increase confusion or drowsiness
Making the Move
Plan to have a conversation with your parent only if there are clear warning signs. Taking the keys away can actually be detrimental to a senior’s health by increasing their sense of isolation and, consequently, depression. If you’re concerned but not sure if the time is right to ask for the keys, consider finding a middle ground by enrolling your parent in a senior driver safety course.
If and when you decide to talk to your parent, remember to focus on their driving skills, not their age. Every driver is different; some seniors begin to encounter challenges at 70, while others drive safely well into their 90s and beyond.
If you're struggling with asking your parent to quit driving, you can also call your parent's physician for help. A physician can assess your parent's ability to drive and make a recommendation to remove an individual's driver's license for safety reasons. In some cases, physicians will call the state to have the license revoked, in which case, your parent will receive a letter in the mail notifying them of this change. This removes the "bad guy" persona from you and makes the decision a safety issue determined by medical and state professionals.
If your parent needs to stop driving, have solutions in place to help them stay connected to the people and activities that are important to them. While you may not always be available to provide transportation, you can arrange for senior driving services, set up rides through Uber or Lyft, or find ways to bring people to their door. Giving up driving can be hard, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of freedom.
Aging brings plenty of challenges, but with the right resources and support, you and your parent do not have to take the journey alone.
Hospice of North Central Ohio can help prepare you for these important conversations with your parents. As you think through the issues, don’t hesitate to use us as a resource. Find out more about us here, or give us a call: 800-952-2207.