Are Your Parents Too Old to Drive?
TALK EARLY AND TALK OFTEN
It’s key to start early and talk with your aging parent or grandparent, even before you spot a problem.
“Just say, ‘As we get older, we’re likely to have one or more medical conditions or take medications that might impact your ability to drive safely so let’s come up with a plan on how to handle that,’” Nelson advises.
If you have already noticed a warning sign, choose someone to chat one-on-one with the senior, preferably a favorite child, spouse, or best friend. “You don’t want the whole family there talking like an intervention,” says Nelson. “Be positive, use messages like, ‘I know how important driving is to you and I’m concerned about your safety.’”
Above all, be respectful of the driver and their privacy. “If you want to get information from their physician or about their driving record, ask permission to do that and work with the driver,” Nelson advises. Be careful not to make accusations or talk about taking the keys away. Instead, use words like “safe driving” and “driving retirement.”
Stick to facts and use real examples of an older driver’s record on the road, and statistics about aging drivers in general to back up your point.
If a one-on-one chat doesn’t work, Rosenblatt encourages families to try a team of two close family members or friends so there is a little more pressure. Should that fail, she suggests they inform a doctor who in most states, can notify the Department of Motor Vehicles and request retesting for driving.
In extreme circumstances, it may even come down to taking the parent to court to get permission to remove the vehicle if they won’t give in. While that sounds stressful, it’s better than the alternative. “Explain that a crash could be more disruptive to a person’s life than not driving at all,” Nelson says. “For example, if they have to live with the burden of having injured or killed someone, or facing a lawsuit or a judgment for damages against that person’s estate.”
When an aging driver does give up their keys, make the transition as pleasant as possible. Look into alternative transportation, whether they want to make their weekly hair appointment, meet with friends, or go shopping.
If arrangements are made to get them where they want, the senior can continue to have a social and active lifestyle.
DO’S AND DON’TS WHEN TALKING TO AN AGING DRIVER
Start early. Have the conversation even before you notice warning signs.
Acknowledge their feelings if they become upset or angry.
Address concerns they may have.
Stick to the facts and don’t make assumptions.
Plan alternative transportation for the senior so they can still get where they want to go.
Base your decision to ask a driver to give up their keys solely on age. Each case is different.
Put off talking to a parent out of fear of a confrontation.
Begin by ganging up on the parent. Instead, start with a one-on-one conversation with someone they trust.
Talk down to the driver. Always maintain respect.
Give up. If a one-on-one conversation does not do it, bring aboard more family members and/or friends, and take other necessary steps.
(Nurse Attorney Carolyn Rosenblatt offers additional tips in her book, “How to Handle a Dangerous Older Driver”)