I was lucky. My late wife’s parents and mine knew when it was time for them to quit driving. They stopped without being asked.
And after Monica, my wife, developed nerve damage and neuropathy in her feet due to different types of cancer treatments, she told me it was no longer safe for her to drive.
Since we wrote about family caregiving for more than 20 years, we knew that the conversation about helping a loved one give up the car keys was a popular — and challenging — topic.
If you have concerns about an aging relative continuing to drive, there are lots of different ways to bring up the topic.
First, talk with your loved one about your concerns early, before the situation is critical. Let the person know that if he or she is no longer able to drive, you’ll be available to help arrange rides or to provide a ride.
Look for an opportunity to bring up the subject using news reports. Unfortunately, stories on accidents involving older drivers are not uncommon. This can be the catalyst to start the conversation. But before you do that, prepare what you’re going to say.
When talking about the topic, stick to the facts (cite accidents, close calls, rising insurance rates, failing eyesight, and so on.) Don’t get caught up in your loved one’s anger and begin firing back. You can also enlist the help of the person’s doctor to explain why this action is necessary.
If your loved one has given you power of attorney, refer to that when discussing this issue, not as a threat but as a reminder that he or she trusts your judgment. If someone else has power of attorney, ask that person to help you with the discussion.
Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. Ask what the procedure is for reporting your concerns. Also, ask about options, perhaps getting identification without having a driver’s license.
Most important, keep in mind that you can’t take away the car keys without providing some reasons and solutions. You need to help your loved one figure out how he or she is going to get around.
Can you drive that person to the places he or she needs to go? Or can your spouse or children do it? Can someone in your parish help out? What about neighbors or friends? Are taxis or buses a possibility? Check with a local senior citizen information and assistance center to find out about special low-cost van rides for the elderly.
The goal is not to take away the keys, but to help your loved one. Gather information about older drivers and the danger it might present. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and most insurance companies have prepared material about older drivers.
Don’t swoop in one day and confiscate the car keys. This almost guarantees anger, resentment and lack of cooperation.
With that information in hand, your loved one may more easily realize that your concerns are valid. It becomes his or her decision, and resistance doesn’t play a part.
Finally, know that your love, respect and concern can ease your loved one’s sense of loss about losing driving privileges, but can’t eliminate it.