Driving Safety of an Older Loved One

Just when you thought you were over worrying about your teenager being on the open road with their driver’s license, along comes your aging parent. You may have noticed some dents or scrapes on the body of their car, maybe a broken mirror, or worse, they have had an accident. The decision to have the difficult conversation about giving their license up must be one of the worse ones to have. After all, your parents were probably the ones that taught you how to drive (and are also quick to point that fact out).

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to poor driving as we age:

  • Medications: Some medicines, can cause vision problems, cause drowsiness, or even dizziness. Be sure you check with your loved ones’ doctor or pharmacist to see if there are any side effects or perhaps even drug interactions
  • Vision: when was the last time your loved one had an appointment with an optometrist? Maybe their eyeglass prescription isn’t up to date, or they may have glaucoma, cataracts, or even macular degeneration. Night driving is especially difficult as we age.
  • Hearing: Hearing loss can contribute to driving. An older driver may not hear horns, sirens, or even a mechanical issue with their car. Again, it is wise to see a doctor to make sure there are no abnormalities or hearing loss.
  • Reaction Time: As a result of aging, our reaction times decrease significantly. There are a number of culprits that can cause this: fatigue, anxiety, arthritis, and a lack of concentration due to another medical condition such as Alzheimer’s.

What to do?

Having a discussion with your parents about their giving up the keys to their independence must be one of the worst tasks in the world. Here are some tips to help guide that conversation so it is less painful for the both of you:

  • Enlist the help of your aging loved one’s doctor and your siblings.
  • Be sensitive to their feeling and the sense of loss.
  • Be patient.
  • Assure them that you and others will make sure that they are able to get to appointments or to do some shopping or you can order groceries on-line for them or even a special dinner from their favorite restaurant.
  • Be willing to take them out so they are not further isolated in their home.
  • Be prepared to overcome their objections.
  • Do your homework and set up with a local council of aging to have there can pick them up to attend activities to keep them socially active and to make friends.
  • Remind them that your primary concern is for their safety… as well as the safety of others.
  • Don’t become confrontational. Use phrases such as, I understand how you feel.
  • Stick to the issue and what other difference that you have had with them in the past, stay in the past. Keep on track.
  • Do not become angry or emotional.

Stay strong. Remember that as difficult as this conversation is, it is coming from a place of love. Eventually, your parents will realize that as well.