Before You Talk to Your Elder Parent About Driving

January 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm Leave a comment

We’ve all heard the news stories–an elder man drives into a crowded restaurant, an elder woman hits a pedestrian. It’s scary to even think about. That’s why we caregivers and family members put it off. We know our elders will be defensive. We know they’ll say they’ve been driving for 50 years–that you’re just trying to shove them into an “old folk’s home.” So before you talk to your elder parent about driving, do your homework, and help to make this monumental life change as easy as possible.

3 Tips to Consider Before You Talk to Your Elder About Driving:

  • Check into your parent’s state driving laws. Check their license to see when it expires. Many elders forget or avoid renewing their license. et them drive while you’re visitng. Be aware of their vision, reflexes, and memory issues. Go with them to renew their license. Let “the state” be the bad guy. If their eyesight is failing, they won’t qualify. Many states have elders perform a driving test, so check to see what the requirements are in your area. If they fail the test, remind them they can get an ID. It makes them feel official and is issued there, at the driver’s bureau.
  • Talk with their doctors about your concerns. For example, my mother had Parkinson’s and I knew that she couldn’t turn the wheel quickly or slam on the brakes in the event of an emergency. I called and spoke to her neurologist before I took her to an appointment for her check-up. He broke the news to her–that based on his assessment, it was time to give up driving. He told her to blame it on the disease, get mad at the disease–not me, her daughter, and not herself for “failing,” or not him–for delivering the less than pleasant news. Because I was there, she couldn’t fib to me or forget to tell me. It opened the door for a heart to heart talk.
  • Research driving alternatives before you have “the talk.” Taxis, senior vans, neighbors, church members, and other family members can all pitch in–so have the “team” in place. Be prepared for the myriad of emotions you–and your elder will feel. It felt like I was taking my mother’s license from her. I didn’t need to feel that way, her condition was, but I did feel that it was my responsibility to explore her options and arrange for alternative transportation. I called her church and arranged drivers for the activities she wanted to attend. They were glad to help out. I took on the weekly errands and doctor visits. I asked her close friends to be sure to invite her to lunch and other fun events often–and to be willing to pick her up. I checked with local resources for van transportation, but my mother refused to “get on the bus.” I wish I had insisted. The freedom she had, the less she would resent her situation.

You might have to be the bad guy in all this. If your elder gets mad at you–sees you as the reason they can’t drive–let them. I used to tell my teens that it was okay to blame their mean/strict mom for their curfew, or to get them out of a bad situation.

If your parent is really stubborn and will drive without a license and you feel that they’re a danger to themselves and others, then take the car. I know that sounds strong, but I know elders who call mechanics, get keys made and stubbornly drive when they’re clearly unable to manage–and their lives and the lives are others are in peril.

The driving talk is the first of many elder transitions. it can be stressful on everyone. Prepare for this big talk. Stay calm. Stick to what you know is right–safety first. Know up front that you’ll have to step up, find solutions, and that they probably won’t like it. Just keep reminding yourself that you’re doing this because you love them–because you care.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving.

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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