Do you feel a little nervous every time your aging parent backs their car out of the driveway? Or perhaps you are curious if a new medical diagnosis should prevent them from driving? While taking away the keys to the car is a big emotional transition that can decrease feelings of independence, sometimes it is necessary in order to keep your loved one, and other drivers on the road, safe.
While it’s important to remember that all older adults are unique, there are some common warning signs that could mean it is time to review driving safety:
Not all warning signs mean that you must take away your loved one’s keys in order to keep them safe. However, if you notice a few of the signs, it is best to begin the conversation with their physician.
Getting your loved one’s physician involved with the driving safety conversation is a wise step. The doctor is an objective third party who is well versed in your loved one’s challenges as well as their medical history. Further, older adults are more likely to trust the opinion of their physician than their adult children.
When speaking with the doctor, talk about:
No matter what, you should trust your intuition. Senior driving deaths and injuries are a serious public health concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each day, more than 20 older adults are killed in vehicle accidents. As for injuries, almost 700 seniors are injured each day because of a crash.
Losing the ability to drive can have serious emotional ramifications for older adults. In fact, losing the car keys often ranks as more detrimental to emotional health than moving out of their family home. You can make the conversation about your worries more productive by following these tips:
Finally, your loved one might resist giving up their car keys because they aren’t sure what life looks like without them. You can ease that transition by:
If your loved one still refuses to give up the keys even after a recommendation from their physician, you can encourage them to be assessed by the DMV or by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist, or CDRS. Find a CDRS by asking for referrals from a physician, physical therapist, or the local Area Agency on Aging.
This is a difficult conversation to start, and it takes some patience and good listening to make any ground. However, if your loved one is an unsafe driver, it is best to begin the conversation before they hurt themselves or someone else.
Haley Burress is a senior care and caregiving expert. She worked in senior care for more than 15 years before she started writing for senior care agencies and professional caregivers full time. She has experience in Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living, Independent Living, and Memory Care as well as Adult Day services and home care.
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