By Erin Denstaedt, MS, Concierge Care Advisors Senior Certified Advisor. 

Are you wondering when you should consider having the conversation with your loved one about their driving abilities? Do you think it may be time to take away the car keys? Wouldn’t it be easier if there was an age assigned to seniors that it was no longer safe for them to drive? Having the conversation with a senior about their driving abilities is never easy. They have been driving for many years and have a ton of experience behind the wheel. Most seniors seem reluctant to give up their driving privileges. It’s understandable; they are giving up a large part of their independence.

There are several things to consider when deciding to talk to your loved one about their driving:

• Their current health situation: There are several medical conditions that can affect a person’s driving ability. Dementia and other memory conditions can great affect their driving ability. A senior that has memory issues may not always make the best choices when it comes to obeying driving laws. They could also get lost easily and end up in dangerous situations. A senior with arthritis may have slower responses to stop signs and other obstacles. Talking with your loved ones doctor before or during their doctors appointments and letting them know your concerns may help. The doctor can discuss this concern to the senior for their safety as well.

• Recent driving records and driving infractions: If your loved one has had a recent driving infraction, it could be a concern. Running a stop sign or stop light, fender benders, and unexplained dents on their vehicle could be a concern about their driving. These could be concerns that your loved ones driving abilities may not be as good as they used to be.

• Medications: Some medications can have concerning side effects when your loved one drives. Some medications can slow reaction times and limit someone’s ability to have a quick reaction time. Make sure you know what medications your senior loved ones are taking so you can talk with a doctor about any potential side effects that may limit their driving abilities.

• Any noticeable driving changes: One way to determine if there are any observable driving differences is to arrange to be in the car with your senior loved one while they are driving. This may be a good way to observe a loved one’s driving abilities. Do they run through stop signs? Do they forget to signal before turning? Do they drive too fast or too slow? These are important things to look for when considering how well they may still drive and if they are safe to drive. If you find yourself uncomfortable or even frightened while being a passenger, it may be time to have the conversation with them. Although it is not an easy conversation, it is always best to have the conversation before they get a ticket, have an accident, or hurt someone else.

An important factor to think through; if you are prepared to “take away the keys”, consider the key factor is generally a loss of independence and control, and be prepared to offer alternatives. This may include you taking them places, or arranging for transportation to the hair salon, grocery store, or even just to get out of the house for various social interactions. All of these things are important for their well-being and shouldn’t stop simply because they can’t drive anymore. Often, loss of driving coincides with a move to Assisted Living or other social setting, where they are able to have a healthy social environment.