Telling Your Parents They Need to Stop Driving Isn’t Easy: These Tips Can Help

By: Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services
Sunday, January 26, 2020

At first, you notice that mom or dad doesn’t seem comfortable behind the wheel anymore. They may hesitate a little too often, drive at inappropriate speeds, or frequently jump curbs while making turns or parking. Worse, they may begin to blow off street signs or occasionally turn the wrong way down on a one-way street.

These varying levels of driving mistakes can happen to anyone, at any age. However, when an aging parent’s driving mishaps indicate that they are an unsafe driver, it’s time to reevaluate whether or not they should continue to drive. Below are some pointers for deciding when and how to best handle the prospect of having mom or dad hang up the car keys.

First off, it’s important to recognize that overall, older adults are safer drivers. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, seniors are more likely to wear their seatbelts, drive when conditions are safest, and not drink and drive than are their younger counterparts. Yet, when older drivers do have car accidents, they are more likely to have a serious or fatal accident. Due to the risks involved, it’s important to closely monitor the situation. 

Older drivers often make driving adjustments on their own. 

Your aging parent may avoid driving at night, in hazardous weather conditions, or in rush hour traffic. With these adjustments, many older drivers don’t need to stop driving altogether and can continue to drive safely throughout their golden years. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch for warning signs. 

Dents, nervousness when driving, getting lost along familiar routes. Family and friends are often the first to notice these changes. If your aging parent is getting into accidents due to mixing up the gas and brake pedals, ignoring traffic signs and signals (such as stop signs, red lights, and one-way street signs), these are more serious warning signs that your parent’s driving is no longer safe. Immediate action is required.

If their driving infractions are minor, evaluate their driving skills over time. 

One dent or accidental clipping of a median isn’t cause to take away mom or dad’s car keys. Instead, seize opportunities to ride along as a passenger in their car. Ask close family and friends to do the same. Take notes and make observations over several outings. Once you have enough data and support from family and friends, it can be easier to broach the topic with your aging parent.

Rule out underlying medical conditions. 

A doctor can evaluate an aging parent’s ability to drive. A simple diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition can enable older drivers to drive safely for longer. Mom may just need new glasses or a hearing aid to improve her driving skills. If the issues are cognitive, a doctor can provide medical advice and help your parent to address his or her declining ability to drive.

Seek the help of an occupational therapist specializing in driver rehabilitation. 

This professional evaluates an individual’s driving skills both in an office and behind the wheel of a car. They will evaluate the older driver’s reaction time, decision making capabilities, vision, and planning ability. The occupational therapist can determine if the driver can continue to drive safely with the aid of equipment or training, or stop driving immediately. A big benefit is that the therapist can lead the discussion on how to proceed.

If your older loved one refuses to stop driving even though doing so is no longer safe, you still have options. 

Get in touch with their doctor and express your concerns. You could also anonymously report your older loved one to the DMV. This will require them to undergo a driver evaluation. If dementia or Alzheimer’s are at play, removing the car keys from your aging loved one’s home and making the car inaccessible may be your best option. It may feel extreme, but it is necessary if their driving could seriously injure or kill them or someone else. 

Help ease the transition by introducing new transportation options. 

Changing habits and finding new ways to retain independence is hard, but the older adult in your life will benefit from your guidance and support. Offer to drive them to and from appointments. Show them the local bus routes and stops on map, accompany them on a practice route or two, or introduce them to a ride-share app like Lyft or Uber. Alternative transportation options can be less costly than owning a car. Your older loved one may need a supportive nudge to realize that they don’t need car keys to live autonomously. 

Evaluating if an aging parent is no longer safe behind the wheel can be challenging. 

It requires a balance of factual fact gathering and compassion. When someone you love becomes an unsafe driver, you may need to help them with seeking medical advice, getting their driving ability reevaluated or introducing alternative driving options. 

We hope these tips help you to keep your loved one safe when they’re on the road. If you have questions or concerns about the driving of an elderly parent or relative, please feel free to reach out to us for additional resources.

About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. With three convenient locations serving both North and West Philadelphia, as well as Trenton and Drexel Hill, it is always our pleasure to be of service. Please visit our website for more information. 

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