At some point you will begin to notice that your mom, dad or elderly loved one should no longer be driving. It’s not because they have reached a certain advanced age or esteemed life plateau. (After all, there are seniors who drive safely well into their 80s and 90s.) It is because you have started to notice other conditions, such as:
- Their vision is not as strong, and they can no longer see the road as clearly as they should. If they can’t see well during the day then their night vision is almost zero.
- Their reflexes are diminishing. You notice they are slower to react to sudden situations and often slam on the brake because they didn’t leave themselves ample time to react to the situation.
- They display increased confusion and disorientation. This can be a side effect of some medicines or simply a symptom of encroaching dementia or Alzheimer’s. They tend to get lost even when driving to a location that they know well.
- Their physical dexterity is reduced and that makes moving around in the car and turning their head extremely difficult. They can no longer easily operate the controls of the car.
It has become apparent that they are a danger to themselves, to other drivers and, and to pedestrians alike.
Taking away the keys to the car can be an extremely difficult experience for the senior. Many seniors see this as the first sign of an increasing loss of independence. Not being able to drive is viewed as no longer being able to care for themselves. It’s no wonder that this action is met with such negativity and resistance.
Here are some suggestions on how to best handle the situation and reduce this traumatic experience:
- Be empathetic and stay calm. You can expect the senior to be stubborn and possibly to become angered. The important thing is that you don’t become accusatory or say anything that undermines their already shaky confidence.
- Be prepared with options. They will fear their loss of independence and worry about having to ask for help even for something as small as going to the supermarket. Make prior arrangements for a car service, discuss the efficiency of having a personal driver, or establish a schedule when you will be there to be a companion as well as to assist with errands. If you offer the alternatives and show how simple they can be, your senior will be more willing to work with those solutions.
- Be patient. It might take some time for the senior to get comfortable with your proposed options. It’s unrealistic to think that they might willingly accept the situation the first time they hear it. Be persistent about the “benefits” of not driving, offer positive alternatives, and they will slowly start to see you point of view.
- Don’t gang up on them. Turning this necessary step into an intervention will make them feel overwhelmed and ever more resistant. This is a discussion that should involve just one or two family members, not a large group.
As difficult as it can be and as much as you hate to do it, be happy knowing that you are doing the right thing. Keep that in mind even when you experience strong pushback.