If you need to talk to your parents about when to stop driving, don’t wait. These suggestions can help make this challenging conversation a little easier.
Updated January 23, 2023
How To Talk To Your Parents About When To Stop Driving
As we age, our bodies slow down physically and cognitively. As a result, reaction times increase, vision deteriorates, and hearing worsens. These issues can contribute to faulty judgments on the road, especially for those 80 and older.
It can be difficult for seniors to recognize when to stop driving. Perhaps your loved one has shown signs that they may not be fit to drive, such as:
- Traffic tickets
- Changes in their car insurance rate
- Concerns from other friends and family
- Damages to the car (new dents or scrapes)
- Hesitation or nervousness when driving (even missing social situations to avoid driving)
- Other behavior changes while driving (forgetting to fasten the seatbelt, tailgating, or waiting too long after traffic lights change)
In the US, driving is necessary to stay active and independent at home and in the community. However, without a car or the ability to drive, most people lack a source of reliable transportation. This can cause seniors to feel helpless and dependent on others for rides or errands. It can also restrict their ability to stay socially active.
So naturally, as an adult child, talking to your aging parents about giving up driving can be one of your biggest caregiving challenges. But if you approach them with your concerns sooner rather than later, it may give them more time to get used to the idea. It will also allow you to find other ways to maintain your parents’ mobility and independence.
If it’s time to talk to your parents about when to stop driving, don’t wait to have this conversation. These suggestions can help make this hard talk a little easier.
How To Talk To Your Parents About Giving Up Driving
It’s best to discuss when to stop driving before your loved one has an accident or becomes a danger to others on the road. You can always work together to create a list of transportation alternatives.
1. Plan Ahead
Outline your thoughts and concerns before having this conversation with your parent. 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.
Plan on devoting several hours to this talk to avoid feeling rushed. Taking your time will ensure you both feel heard and understood. Remember to keep this conversation between you and them. Don’t invite others since your loved one may feel like they’re in an intervention.
In the same vein, consider meeting somewhere with minimal distractions so you can give the conversation your full attention.
2. Conversation Openers
There are several ways you can begin your conversation about when to stop driving. For example, suppose your parent has a health condition. You could ask them if they’ve recently talked to their doctor about potential side effects from their illness or medication that could impair their driving.
Or, encourage them to think about their driving habits by asking about their comfort level while driving in different parts of town. For example, they may not mind commuting in familiar areas but feel anxious taking the highway. Or ask how they feel when driving in the dark or poor weather conditions.
3. During The Talk
Even if you listen and acknowledge your parent’s concerns, things may go differently than planned. If things get heated, or you feel you are losing sight of the topic, don’t be afraid to step back and continue another day. It’s important to allow yourselves to calm down and reassess the conversation before feelings get hurt.
As you talk to your parent about when to stop driving, use “I” statements and avoid accusations or confrontation. Additionally, stick to the facts as best as you can. Finally, let your loved one know you value their happiness and independence and offer to arrange alternatives to support them.
4. Transportation Options
Of course, you will want to keep their physical mobility in mind as you brainstorm. For example, can your parent walk to a bus stop if you recommend public transportation? Is public transport readily available in their town?
Consider these options:
- Taxis or rideshares
- Local buses or trains
- Rides from family and friends
- Senior transportation services
- Mobility scooters for short distances
5. Ask Them To Consider A Driving Assessment
If your parent is reluctant to give up the keys or insists they can safely drive, suggest a formal driving assessment. You could even do one yourself to make them feel more at ease. In addition, a driving test can more accurately gauge if your loved one should be on the road at all or if they should shorten how far they drive.
MeetCaregivers Can Help
It can be difficult for older adults to recognize when to stop driving. So when you have this conversation with your parents, emphasize that giving up the keys doesn’t mean the end of their freedom. Other options are available to meet their transportation needs.
MeetCaregivers can help maintain your parents’ independence and mobility every day of the week. We can work with you to find the right match and ensure peace of mind for you and your parents.
Check out the Blog for more home care resources for family caregivers.
- AARP. (2013, September 3). What Is a Formal Driving Assessment? Driving Assessment for Older Drivers – Driver Safety. Retrieved November 26, 2019, from https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/info-2013/formal-driving-assessment.html
- Caring.com. (2018, December 13). Seniors and Driving: A Guide. Seniors and Driving: A Guide – Caring.com . Retrieved November 26, 2019, from https://www.caring.com/caregivers/senior-driving/
- Independent Age. (2017, September 7). Talking about… giving up driving. Talking about… giving up driving | Independent Age. Retrieved November 26, 2019, from https://www.independentage.org/information/personal-life/difficult-conversations/talking-aboutgiving-up-driving. Reviewed May 20, 2022