Is it Time to Take the Car Keys Away from Your Parents?

As your parents get older, some of their activities from previous years are no longer feasible. While you may see that they are not as sharp as they once were 10, 20, or more years ago they may not be ready to admit to it.

We’ve all witnessed and most likely have complained about an elderly person’s driving habits—they drove too slowly, could barely see over the steering wheel, or seemed oblivious to the rules of the road, other drivers or pedestrians.

For the elderly, the ability to drive is often seen as one of the last holdouts to maintaining independence.  Remember when you first started driving and the taste of independence that accompanied having a license? Would you readily relinquish your driving privileges?  That’s why your aging parents may not admit that it’s time to reevaluate their ability to safely navigate the roads. And, guess who gets to bear this news to them? You!

Here are a few tips to help you recognize when it’s time to approach the subject of your parents giving up their driving privileges:

Talk to Your Parents

It may be time to have a conversation with your parents, but you can’t treat them like children. After all, how would you feel if someone tried to take your license? Ask your parents if they feel that they can still manage driving.  You may get a suspicious look or an argumentative tone, or there could be a sense of relief especially if you’re providing another solution. Just remember that you’re talking about giving up some of their independence.

Take a Ride with Your Parents

This is one of the best ways to look for signs that mom or dad’s skills or reflexes have diminished. Are they running stop signs or traffic lights? Do they seem nervous while driving?  Has braking become a delayed reaction or are they overusing the brake pedal?

Schedule Regular Eye Appointments for Your Parents

If possible, accompany your parents to an appointment. The eye doctor may determine that your parent just needs an adjustment to their prescription or maybe should stop driving at night. The key is to get a professional diagnosis to help determine if your parents should modify their driving schedule or turn over their keys to the car.

Engage the Help of the Family Doctor

Most likely a medical doctor will not discuss your parent’s medical chart with you; however, you can enlist the doctor’s aid and ask him/her to discuss driving at your parent’s next appointment. More than likely your parents will be willing to listen to a trusted physician, particularly if the diagnosis is that driving should be limited or eliminated.

Losing your independence at any age is not easy. However, when safety is involved you can’t turn a blind eye. It may be time for your parents to stop driving. Enlist all the help and support you can get to facilitate the transition when this decision needs to be made.