You’re afraid to start a conversation about such a touchy subject — your elderly parent and driving.
It’s a true form of independence that few people want taken away from them, and the idea of it being taken away indicates just how hard our loved-ones are being hit with the fact that they are aging.
Whether it be due to health concerns, safety concerns, or a mix of both, knowing how and when to approach such a sensitive topic can be intimidating and quite discouraging.
Read on to learn how to approach the subject and how to know when it’s time for aging parents to hang up their keys.
Table of Contents
- How Do I Know When My Elderly Parent Should Stop Driving?
- 5 Tips To Help You Talk to Your Elderly Parents About When To Stop Driving
- Senior Transportation Alternatives
- What To Do When Your Aging Parent Refuses To Stop Driving
- Senior Services of America: Helping Seniors Stay Active and Engaged With Independent and Assisted Living Options
Why Is Self-Care for Seniors Important?
How Do I Know When My Elderly Parent Should Stop Driving?
If you’re concerned about your elderly parents’ ability to drive, it is likely time to talk with them — and their physician — about hanging up the keys and letting someone else take the wheel.
Safe driving requires elderly — and young folks — to have physical and cognitive capabilities, as well as appropriate driving behavior and adequate driving skills.
Signs that it may be time to stop driving include:
- Delayed response time
- Being easily distracted
- Uneasiness while driving
- Difficulty maintaining or moving into the correct traffic lane
- Hitting curbs
- Trouble parking
- Visible dents and scrapes on the car, garage, or objects
- Driving too slow or too fast for road conditions
You’ve noticed that your mother is having a harder time seeing. She struggles to read the street signs, and she has gotten too close for comfort with cars that she should be seeing in her peripheral vision.
Aging could certainly be taking a toll on her vision.
If you know your aging parent is dealing with an eye disease, like glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration, talking with their physician is vital.
Multitasking — and performing multiple skills at the same time — is necessary when driving. We all know this. As we age, multi-tasking can become more difficult. Your attention, memory, and visual processing may be affected.
If you notice your parents becoming easily distracted, unable to remember things, unable to keep track of things like other cars, pedestrians, traffic lights, signals, and road signs, it’s likely time for them to consider stopping being behind the wheel.
As we age, our reaction time begins to get slower. If you’ve noticed your aging parent is struggling to let off the gas, come to a stop quickly, swerve out of the way of other vehicles, and merge too slowly, it may be time for them to stop driving.
Parents dealing with stiff muscles or loss of feeling in their limbs can find it harder to move quickly and more difficult to steer or use the gas and brakes correctly.
5 Tips to Help You Talk to Your Elderly Parents About When To Stop Driving
Your dad’s doctor has told him it’s just not safe for him to be driving anymore — but he’s not convinced. He’s told you for years that taking away his driving would be the last straw, that no one is going to take away his independence.
So, as the time approaches, how can you get your elderly dad to stop driving, and what’s the best way to go about the challenging conversation? Here are some tips to help.
Tip #1: Start Early
Don’t wait until something bad happens to talk about it. As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.”
It rings true for circumstances like this, too.
Has your elderly parent been driving slower than normal? Have you noticed that they’re having trouble seeing or hearing recently? Is it getting to the point that it’s affecting their driving?
Start talking to your loved one when you see the first signs that it may be unsafe to drive. Make the conversation about their abilities, not their age.
Tip #2: Observe Their Driving
While your parents probably don’t want to hear a play-by-play of everything they’re doing wrong while driving, having specific examples that support your concerns can be very persuasive.
Consider taking a few drives with your parents. Pay attention to their habits. Are they attentive? Are they making too many wrong turns? Having an unintentional lead foot? Maybe they’re driving too slow in areas where it’s unsafe?
Take notes, but don’t confront your parents while they’re driving — staying safe is still the number one priority.
Tip #3: Be Sensitive
We cannot stress enough how important it is to stay sensitive and empathic when talking with your aging parents about driving.
For many, especially when we’re talking about being unable to do things we’ve done most of our lives, aging involves many radical changes. It’s not an easy conversation to have or thought to process when your children are talking with you about something so personal.
Remind your parents that you know it’s not an easy topic.
“Mom, I know that this isn’t something you want to talk about, and I know it can’t be easy, but we need to talk about your driving.”
You can bring up incidents that concern you and ask for their input. Ask if they’ve noticed any changes in their abilities while driving, or if they’re feeling uncomfortable behind the wheel.
Discuss options that you both feel are appropriate. If your parents are frustrated, hostile, or denying that driving is unsafe, do your best to remain calm and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
This isn’t an easy conversation for either party.
Meet their feelings with understanding and compassion. Remind them that it’s about their safety — and the safety of others — not about taking away their independence. Remind them that you still care about their social wellness and aren’t trying to take away any of their independence.
Tip #4: Help Them Understand Your Concern
Ultimately, your concerns are about everyone’s safety — but when it feels like someone is taking away your independence, that can be hard to accept. They likely already know the risks, on a certain level, but they may not want to think about them.
Instead, discuss how a potential wreck could affect them, as well as others, physically, mentally, and even morally. If someone else gets hurt, it could cause serious damage to the other person’s life — and their own.
Remind your parents that your concern isn’t to take away their independence — it’s about keeping them and others safe so that you can spend their final years enjoying their presence, not worrying about their safety.
Tip #5: Know Your State’s Laws Regarding Older Drivers
States have different laws regarding older drivers, and some don’t have any provisions at all.
California, for example, requires those over 70 to renew their driver’s license in person, and they must complete a written test and a vision screening.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, doesn’t have any special provisions for older drivers — but if a doctor reports to the Department of Transportation that a person shouldn’t be driving, the state can automatically cancel their license.
Be sure to check your state’s laws regarding your aging parents and maintaining their driver’s license. More information can be found by contacting your state’s Department of Transportation.
Senior Transportation Alternatives
Thankfully, seniors have many transportation alternatives available to them.
From public transportation to transportation services to drivers hired specially to help seniors, your parents don’t have to worry about being stuck at home when they need to get out of the house.
The Independent Transportation Network America is a non-profit transportation service for adults who are aged 60 years or older. For an annual fee, seniors receive around the clock transportation. ITN America partners with several other organizations to help meet the needs of seniors throughout the country.
At Senior Services of America, we understand that your parents’ lives don’t have to stop just because their driving capabilities are slowing down. That’s why our communities provide transportation to our residents.
Whether it’s time to run for groceries or spend a night out with friends, we’ll work with your parents to accommodate their needs and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Instead of feeling as though they’re missing out on a part of life, they may find they actually enjoy it more — especially when their safety isn’t a concern.
What to Do When Your Aging Parent Refuses To Stop Driving
Sometimes — and we’ve seen quite often — aging parents just don’t want to see (or can’t see) how dangerous their driving may be to themselves or others. They also may not realize what their limitations are.
Dad’s been driving his F250 for YEARS, and he’s adamant there’s no way he’s giving up driving. You might as well take all of his joy because he swears it would feel like the end — and he continues to drive his overly-large truck two hours every other week to see your kids.
You’ve tried talking to him, but he’s just not going to give it up, so what can you do to help?
Consider talking with your parent’s doctor. Elderly parents may (or may not) be more likely to listen to a doctor, but their physician can also provide documentation regarding their ability to drive safely.
Ask your parents to take a driving assessment with the DMV. Having a professional take them out on the road or performing a written assessment may also help your aging parent see that slowing down and taking a seat in the passenger seat might be the best move for everyone.
Senior Services of America: Helping Seniors Stay Engaged by Providing Enrichment Opportunities and Transportation in Our Senior Living Communities
Aging parents don’t have to give up their livelihood if they decide to turn over their keys — especially when they live in a community like those managed by Senior Services of America.
Our goal always has been, and always will be, to help seniors make the most of their retirement years. We encourage all our residents to stay as independent as possible and to continue living purposeful lives.
We help residents stay engaged in life mentally, physically, and emotionally. Your parents will have ample opportunities to get out and enjoy the activities they always have when they choose to live in a Senior Services of America community.
If your aging parent is concerned about continuing to live their best life throughout retirement but doesn’t want to worry about the safety concerns that come with living alone, we’re here to help. Contact one of our communities today.