By Jenny Austin-Krzemien, Certified Concierge Care Advisor
When my grandmother gave up driving, she did it on her terms. We never had to stage an intervention, disable her car or threaten to take her keys. She recognized that driving was becoming more difficult, pumping gas was more challenging than it used to be, and maintaining her car was not as easy as it once was. She realized that her family could provide everything she needed, although it was sometimes hard for her to ask. We were happy to help her because in exchange, we had peace of mind knowing she was safe and no longer driving her car. My grandma willingly gave up her keys. This doesn’t happen very often. Normally it is a struggle, and I am asked often for advice on how to convince an aging mother or father why they should no longer be driving.
Imagine having the freedom to get behind the wheel of your own car for 60-70 years to drive wherever you need to go… and then someone tells you that you can’t drive anymore. It is a hard pill to swallow! For some seniors it’s the last part of their independence. They may have already given up their home and moved into a senior living apartment at the urging of a family member. Now they’re being told they need to give up their car!
According to webmd.com, drivers over the age of 65 have higher chances of getting killed in a car accident than drivers between the ages of 35 and 54. Aging can affect reaction time. Other factors that affect the elderly include hearing loss, vision loss, worsening health conditions, dementia, weakening muscles and stiff joints, medication use and their side effects. If you are noticing signs your parent or loved one may not be safe to drive, such as getting lost in familiar areas, failing to check blind spots before changing lanes, getting in small accidents, becoming easily agitated, difficulty paying attention- it is definitely time to have a conversation with them. However, this can be challenging!
Here are some tips to help the conversation between you and your parent or loved one:
- Make sure it’s just a one-on-one conversation so they aren’t feeling attacked
- Stay calm and gentle and let them know you are just concerned about their safety
- Ask them to talk to their doctor about driving- sometimes hearing this type of opinion from a health professional is more valuable
- Encourage them to enroll in a safe driver’s course for seniors if there is one in your area
- Let them know of public transportation options in your area or teach them how to use Uber or Lyft
- If they live in a senior living community, have the staff show them how to sign up to ride in the shuttle to go shopping