How to Talk to an Aging Parent About Driving
The decision to retire from driving is one of the most difficult ones seniors have to face. Many of them view their ability to drive as the key to their independence. And, though they may realize that failing eyesight or other factors have an impact on their ability to drive safely, they fear that giving up their keys will lead to a life of seclusion or complete dependence on others.
Understandably, family members may hesitate to start the conversation about driving. Although it may be difficult and awkward to discuss, talking to your loved one about driving could be life-saving.
Have you ever wondered how to breach this sensitive topic with your aging parents? Here are some tips to get you started.
Don’t Wait Until it’s an Emergency
If you bring up the subject of retiring the keys when your parent is still a capable driver, emotions may not be so high. You’ll be able to discuss the situation a little more logically and maybe plan together for indications that you both agree mean driving is no longer safe. Check in from time to time about any changes your parent may notice in their driving. These conversations could open the door to more productive discussions if it becomes necessary down the road.
Make it a Two Way Conversation
Simply telling your parent that you think it’s time they stopped driving will most likely put them on the defensive. Instead, let them see that you value their input. Encourage them to share any concerns they have about their ability to drive. Ask Dad about that new dent you noticed in the car. Invite Mom to voice concerns about difficulties with concentration or confusion.
Let them know that you’re concerned about their safety, and you don’t want to see them get hurt. They’ve probably noticed the same things you have – they just may be having a hard time facing the reality of what it means.
Revisit the Issue
In an emotionally charged decision such as this, don’t expect things to neatly resolve in one sitting. Be prepared for anger or denial. If you see your parent becoming frustrated or upset, it may be best to pick up the subject another time. Over the course of several conversations you’ll most likely be able to agree on a solution.
Consider the Options
Giving up driving entirely might not be the only choice. Depending on your parent’s situation, deciding on some limits might be a safe alternative. Some seniors stay safe by avoiding driving at night or staying off the highways.
Your aging parent might also be open to taking a senior refresher driving course. For a small fee, AARP offers an online driving course which may also lead to discounted auto insurance.
Address Their Concerns
Although your parent’s safety and that of others is the most important factor, realize that the decision to give up driving will present other concerns. They may wonder how they’ll get to the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or their weekly bridge tournament. Assure them that you understand that these things are important.
Don’t try to downplay the impact that their decision will have on their life, but do work with them to find alternatives to driving themselves.
Even though it may be difficult to talk to an aging parent about driving, it’s an important conversation to have. Your concern could be what they need to help them realize the importance of taking this painful step. And your support could be what gives them the courage to do it.
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