Senior Safety: How To Discuss Giving Up Driving
One of the most difficult conversations a caregiver can have with a loved one is giving up driving. After all, driving is integral to their sense of independence and well-being and makes it easier to stay connected with friends and family.
As we age, our bodies slow down physically and cognitively. Reaction times get higher, vision deteriorates, and hearing gets worse. These issues can contribute to faulty judgments on the road, especially those 80 and older.
Perhaps your loved one has shown signs that they may not be fit to drive, which include:
- Changes in their car insurance rate
- Traffic tickets
- Damages to the car, such as new dents, scrapes, etc.
- Hesitation or nervousness when driving, including missing social situations to avoid driving.
- Concerns from other friends and family.
- Other behavior changes while driving, from forgetting to fasten their seatbelt, tailgating, or waiting too long after traffic lights change.
If you feel that it may be time to talk to your senior parent about giving up driving, here are some tips to make this hard talk a little bit easier.
Before sitting your parent down to talk, plan your thoughts and concerns out ahead of time. As you plan, remember that this is an open conversation between both of you. Don’t invite other people to join, as it could cause your loved one to feel that she is in an intervention.
Plan on devoting several hours for this talk, so neither of you feel rushed. It will give you both time to hear each other and genuinely listen.
Coming from a positive place will help set the tone and make them feel more at ease. For example, they could save by not having car payments, paying for gas, or paying for insurance.
Additionally, consider a space with few distractions so you can both give the conversation your full attention.
It’s best to discuss giving up driving before your loved one has an accident or becomes a danger to others on the road.
If you try approaching them with your concerns sooner, rather than later, it may give them more time to get used to the idea. It will also give both of you a chance to find other ways to maintain your parents’ mobility and independence.
However, if your worries about their driving ability are more immediate, don’t wait to have this talk. The safety of your loved one and other drivers is what’s most important.
Then, work together to come up with a list of transportation alternatives.
There are several ways you can begin your conversation about giving up driving. If your loved one has a new or worsening health condition, see if they’ve asked their doctor if their medication or medical issue could impair their driving.
Or, you could prompt them to think about their driving habits by inquiring about their level of comfort on the road. They may feel comfortable driving in-town or around familiar areas, but the highway or interstate could be a different story. Or, ask about how they feel about driving in the dark, or in sub-optimal weather conditions like snow and rain.
During The Talk
Even if you listen and acknowledge your parent’s concerns, things may not go as planned. If things get heated or you feel that you are losing sight of the topic, don’t be afraid to step back and continue another day.
Allow yourselves the chance to calm down and reassess what was said, before feelings get hurt.
Throughout this talk, stick to the facts as best as you can, use “I” statements, and avoid coming off as accusatory or confrontational.
Let your loved one know that you value their happiness and independence. The two of you can work together to come up with a list of transportation alternatives.
Sometimes, even the best plans can go astray. If you find your loved one meeting you with resistance, consider proposing a formal driver assessment.
Evaluating a loved one’s driving by a trained professional may be just what both of you need to obtain peace of mind. You could even do one yourself to make them feel more at ease.
A driving test can more accurately gauge if your loved one should be on the road at all, or if they should simply shorten how far they drive. There are several programs around the country; check out the AARP to learn more.
Another suggestion for talking to seniors about giving up driving is asking their doctor’s thoughts on the matter. Although their medical provider may be unable or unwilling to give a direct answer without the power of attorney, they may be able to tell you if their health puts them at risk while behind the wheel.
Of course, you will want to keep their physical mobility in mind as you brainstorm. If you are recommending public transportation, is your parent able to walk to a bus stop? Is public transport readily available in their town?
Consider these options:
- Local buses or trains
- Taxis or ride shares
- Mobility scooters for short distances
- Rides from family and friends
- Help from a caregiver for various trips during the week
How MeetCaregivers Can Help
Giving up driving doesn’t mean the end of your loved one’s freedom. With help from MeetCaregivers, we can help maintain their independence and mobility any day of the week.
We will work with you to find the right match and ensure peace of mind for both you and your parents.
Give us a call or send us a message today.