I find myself at a peculiar age in life. I split my time between coaching my children on how to parent their children and becoming a parent to my own parents. It may not be too many more years before I am faced with taking the last car from the people who helped give me my first one.
Is It Time for “The Talk?”
As a parent, it can be difficult to determine the right time to have tricky conversations, like the “birds and the bees” one. That same awkwardness exists for the child of aging parents when it comes to their driving and whether they should continue. Maybe you have seen some driving behavior that concerned you. You wonder if it was a simple mistake that any driver could make or something that happens with regularity. How can you decide?
While the prospect of this conversation is difficult, it is vitally important that you have it. Fatality rates per mile driven increase every year for drivers aged 75 and above. The safety of your loved one and the ones he or she is on the road with is paramount
The fact of the matter is this: As people age, their reflexes and reaction times diminish. Unlike wine, driving skill doesn’t get better with age. Here are some tips to ease you into this conversation.
- Assess your parent’ s driving skills by going along with them for a ride. Pay close attention to their observance of road signs, navigation ability and their handling of the car.
- If mistakes are made that are concerning, point them out. Be careful that your tone is respectful and courteous once this subject is broached. Driving represents freedom and independence and facing the sacrifice of these things is difficult.
- Be prepared with solutions and alternatives if it is decided that your parents should no longer drive. Be aware of public transportation options or be willing to take over their driving duties yourself.
What If They Don’t Listen?
It is never easy for anyone when rights and privileges are taken away, even when it is necessary. Giving up your car keys means giving away your independence and admitting to yourself that there are things in your life no longer under your control. It is no wonder that many seniors are in no hurry to put their licenses on a shelf.
If you are confident that your parent can no longer safely drive and he or she is reticent to surrender their keys, here are some things you can do.
- Secure the aid of siblings or other relatives – Be sure you are not the only one in the family calling for this change. Perhaps your parent will be more receptive hearing your concerns voiced from the mouth of the different family member.
- Arrange to have someone “borrow” the car – Have a friend or family member asked for a short loan of your parent’s With the car temporarily unavailable, your parent may get used to the idea of not driving it.
- Introduce other restrictions – If your parent actively ignores your concerns, it may be effective to no longer allow them to transport your children, for example.
No matter how things go, it is important that you don’t feel guilty. You are not the bad guy here. If your parent is particularly belligerent, you may have to disable, remove or even sell the car. It’s not easy to “know better” than the people who known better than you for your whole life, but, for their safety and the safety of others, these hard decisions must be made.