Convincing an elderly parent to give up his car keys is a hard task for any adult child. Driving to the store or running other errands is an important symbol of independence for an older person. Depriving him of that opportunity can have a tremendous impact on his feeling of self-worth.
That said, an adult child is often in the best position to recognize that an elderly parent can no longer drive safely. According to the CDC, ~7,500 older adults died in traffic crashes in 2020, with “almost 200,000 taken to the emergency department for crash injuries.” No adult child wants their elderly parent to be a part of this statistic.
Four tips for helping an elderly person drive safely.
- Remaining active and exercising is critical to an older person’s ability to maintain his reflexes. Help your elderly parent develop a plan for participating in activities at home or within the community. Check out the earlier post “Older Parents Remaining Active” to learn more about helping an older person remain active.
- Encourage your elderly parent to have annual eye and hearing exams to identify issues before they become serious. Seniors can drive safely with corrective eyeglasses and hearing aids. Hopefully, this will be the motivation an elderly parent needs to get these annual exams.
- Consult with a physician or pharmacist to ensure that medications or combination of medications, including over-the-counter products, are not contributing to inattentiveness or confusion.
- Help your elderly parent plan the best routes to the grocery store or other common locations. Lack of familiarity is a major cause of confusion which can contribute to car accidents. Drive with your elderly parent to these locations to ensure that he is comfortable with the routes chosen. Also, keep track of road construction or closures to help him identify route options.
Three tips for convincing an elderly person to discontinue driving.
- Express your concern about your elderly parent’s safety and any issues you notice that seem unsafe. Avoid confrontation as this will probably create resistance. Instead, maintain a supportive tone and provide additional information regarding the issues that can affect elderly drivers. Then be persist in delivering the message. Repetition can be more productive than coming on too strong.
- Develop a plan of action with your elderly parent to address the driving issue. Discuss the signs that may show a diminishing ability to drive and then agree on what would require giving up the keys. If you can get your elderly parent’s buy-in on the plan, it may be easier to take action when the time comes.
- Identify alternative forms of transportation that can replace driving, such as Uber, Lyft, taxis, buses, community-supported options such as Dial-A-Ride, and friends or family. Make sure that the chosen option or options are identified and arranged so that your elderly parent knows what to do.
Talking “at” your elderly parent about discontinuing driving will not be very productive. Instead, be sensitive to his concerns and issues and focus on your desire to keep him safe. Be prepared to repeat the discussion over time, as you may not get the result you want right away.
Look at a previous blog post “Older People and Functional Aging” to read a discussion about chronological and functional aging. This issue has considerable relevance to the discussion about your elderly parent driving.
Also, if you want to arm yourself with the information needed to motivate an elderly parent or friend to remain active and exercise, take a look at this new e-book by clicking here.
Learn more about blog creator Steven Watson’s background related to helping elderly people remain active and safe by clicking here to access his Amazon Author’s Page.