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Age and Driving: When to Take Away your Parent’s Keys

Blog May 12th, 2015
when-to-take-away-your-parents-keys

Don’t expect your parents to suddenly reach an “age” where they’re unfit to drive, it’s on a case-by-case basis. Being old does not equal “a bad driver,” however if your loved one is not in the best health then it might be time to take away your parent’s keys.

Here are a list of symptoms and signs to look for that indicate it’s time to take away your parent’s keys.

  1. Memory Loss

No surprise this is first. If your elderly parent is experiencing memory loss (usually associated with dementia), then you should take away their keys. There’s nothing more horrifying than getting a call from a county sheriff 200+ miles away saying they found your dad – this actually happens.

  1. Vision Loss

Whether it’s macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma or the effects of naturally waning eyesight, it’s important for your parents to get their vision checked out once a year. It’s another obvious one, but if your parents’ eyesight is fleeting, then it’s better safe than sorry. Remember, even if your parents are perfectly healthy in all other aspects, car accidents (although more common among teenagers) are more fatal among the elderly.

  1. Range of Movement

On the surface, we don’t think about how much “movement” there is while driving, but if you’ve ever had a neck injury, you know how challenging driving can be. Checking over your shoulder for changing lanes is imperative and if your parents are struggling to move their neck, then assess how bad it is and if they should be driving.

  1. Strength

Most cars come with power steering, so this isn’t too severe, but it does require some strength to turn the wheel and step on the gas. If your loved one is growing more and more enfeebled over time, then depending on the car, it might be time to take away your parent’s keys.

  1. Medications

This is a big one. Some medications specifically say, “Do not operate heavy machinery.” This is because the medication may cause dizziness, drowsiness, or loss of coordination. Even if your elder is fairly healthy, it’s important to make sure they understand the negative side-effects their medication may cause.

Of course, most of these are things to watch for. When it comes to taking away your parent’s keys, you should check the condition of their car regularly. See if there are any dents, damages, or scratches that weren’t there before. Even if there is damage, you should absolutely ride with them first to see how they do. Driving offers a significant amount of freedom, so it’s not something to take away willy-nilly.

It would almost be easier if we reached a certain age where we took away our parents’ keys. They handed us the reigns when we were young, and then (decades later) we take their keys away, but it doesn’t actually work like that, so make sure to really assess your parent before reaching a conclusion.

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