In the 29 years I handled personal injury cases, most of them were car accidents. I represented injured people hundreds of times. When the victim was hit by an elder or older driver who should never have been driving, I always wondered why no one had taken the car keys away.Where were the adult children as elderly aging parents began to lose the ability to safely operate a car?
If we’re talking about your Mom or Dad, and you’ve notice that he or she just isn’t safe behind the wheel anymore, this is to encourage you to get involved. Most older drivers who are losing their ability to drive safely don’t recognize it or are in denial and can’t face the terrible thought of giving up their independence and control. Sometimes, loss of the ability to drive a car is a life changing event, as the elder can no longer maintain himself at home without transportation.
Denial is a very common reaction to the early warning signs of becoming a dangerous older driver. Denial can occur both among the elderly, who really, really don’t want to have this privilege taken from them, and in their adult children, who then have to deal with the consequences of Mom or Dad becoming a burden around transportation.If this is happening in your aging parents, try these five tips to handle this emotionally charged and difficult issue.
1. Approach the subject respectfully and at the best time of day for your parent. Ask if it’s ok to talk about this now.
2. Bring up the issue of driving while you express caring and concern for how difficult it must be to even talk about it, but gently insist if your parent resists the subject.
3. Encourage your elderly parent to see a doctor to find out what physical problems could be going on. Some people need a change in medication or other health care treatment to correct alertness, vision, or ability to attend to detail in driving. Go with him or her to the doctor if you can.
4. If the doctor concurs that your aging parent should give up the keys, use the doctor as the reason for bringing up the subject and the reason for suggesting limiting or giving up driving.
5. Research alternative kinds of transportation where your parent lives. If you are in a rural area, there may be none, but family, neighbors, or church or synagogue members may be willing to help. Public transportation may be a good alternative in urban areas, even if your elderly parent has not used it before.
The subject of driving is a “charged” one. Sparks can fly. If this is making you nervous just thinking about it, you can feel better if you know what to do. I’ve laid out a step by step plan in How To Handle a Dangerous Older Driver, a short book, available here. Even if you don’t have the faintest idea of how to approach your own aging parent, you can learn.
Once you have the confidence you need to take the first step, you’re on your way. If your aging parent is extremely difficult (and some are, aren’t they??), you’ll know your alternatives. Sometimes outside help can get you over the obstacles. Here at AgingParents.com, we support your efforts to help your parent, spouse or loved one when driving has become a danger for that person.
We’re with you all the way.