Dad, We Need to Have a Talk

For most of us, driving a car means freedom, independence and increased self-confidence. You gain instant access to a whole world beyond your front door as soon as you receive your driver’s license. This is even more true if you live in an area that doesn’t have comprehensive public transportation. So when it’s time to talk about taking the car away from an elderly parent you know you are likely to face resistance.

Convincing elderly parents that it is time to stop driving is one of the more difficult conversations you are likely to have. No one likes to be the “bad guy.” This particular challenge that you face as a caregiver ultimately comes from the love you have for your parent(s) and your concern for their safety. Remember that, as you talk with them. You might have to remind them of that too.

Highway Safety Statistics

When it comes to older drivers, safety should be the utmost concern. In addition to their own, they need to be concerned for everyone else who shares the road with them. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that “drivers age 70 and older have higher crash rates per mile traveled than middle-aged drivers, though not as high as young drivers.”

The IIHS has also found that seniors are more likely to be involved in “angle crashes, overtaking or merging crashes, and especially intersection crashes. Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014, multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 37 percent of the crashes for drivers 80 and older, compared with 19 percent for drivers ages 16-59.”

These age-related accidents can be attributed to age-related changes to both the body and brain, which can affect vision, reaction time, and judgement. Potential side effects from various medications can also play a role.

Start Off Slow

If you have noticed that they seem to have more trouble driving after dark or if they have commented or complained about it, begin by encouraging them to stop driving at night. I know that as I’ve gotten older I dislike driving at night more and more and I’m several decades away from needing to give up the keys. No one likes sudden change, so easing them into this major life change could help them prepare for the inevitability of giving up driving altogether. Giving up driving at night to start should also reduce the chances of them being involved in a accident.

Take Them to The Doctor

Start driving them to their doctor’s appointments. Taking care of elderly parents often means accompanying them to doctor’s appointments so that nothing the doctor says gets lost in translation or quickly forgotten. You can even call ahead of time to discuss some of your concerns privately before coming in with your parent.

Research Alternative Methods of Transportation

Why not collect local bus or train schedules, purchase a metro card or public transportation tokens for them? You can even download the Lyft or Uber app onto their smartphones for them.  Doing this “legwork” for your aging parent will significantly reduce the stress involved in this process for them. It also helps you easily answer the question, “How am I going to be able to get around?”

Be Ready To Listen

Be prepared to listen. You can still defend and maintain your point while carefully listening to and engaging with the concerns that your parent raises. Taking the car away from an elderly parent also means taking away some of their independence. That is a difficult change for anyone to accept. By listening to their perspective, concerns and feelings you will make them feel more in control of what is happening. Reassure them that it is nit your intention to hurt them in any way, but rather to help them.