Watching a parent age is hard. It’s like the reverse of how they watched you grow up as a kid – instead of exciting milestones like first steps or words, you have difficult ones like the day you realize it’s time to take the keys away. Telling the parent you love – the one who took care of you and was for so long the one in charge – that they’re no longer fit to drive is a hard pill for both parties to swallow.
In many areas of the country, driving is important for independence. When that’s gone, a person immediately needs the help of others to a far greater degree. Nobody wants that, but when it’s a matter of basic safety, you have to have the conversation. But many seniors drivers are perfectly safe drivers, so you don’t want to jump to any conclusions too soon.
So how do you know when it’s time?
4 Signs You Should Consider Taking the Keys Away
Many of the common symptoms of aging unfortunately have the inconvenient side effect of making driving a bad
idea. If one or more of these occurs, continued driving could be putting your parent and other people on the road at risk.
- You watch them regularly make mistakes while on the road.
Everybody forgets a turn signal now and then, but if your parent is regularly making more serious errors like driving the wrong way on a one way street, running red lights or stop signs, or weaving between lanes, the risks of a wreck are high.
- Their eyesight is failing.
You can’t drive if you can’t see. If their sight has been slipping to the point where they can’t read road signs or stay on top of where the other cars on the road are, they can’t safely stay behind the wheel.
- They’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
An early diagnosis might not mean having to take the keys away right away, but it means the day is coming soon. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia have a hard time remembering where they’re going and don’t have the quick reaction times needed for safe driving.
- They get into accidents.
Even if the accidents are minor, if your senior driver is running into objects, or worse, people or other cars, it should go without saying that they shouldn’t be behind the wheel anymore.
How to Make the Case
The job of convincing your parent that it’s time doesn’t have to be all on your shoulders. Keeping the roads safe is a public good (a concept a veteran should well understand). If you meet resistance when you talk to them about it, make them an offer. Senior drivers can keep driving for another 6 months if they can:
- Get the doctor’s approval to keep driving, and
- Pass a driving test
If either source gives them a pass, then they’re probably okay to keep driving and you have an opportunity to bring it up again in 6 months if you’re still concerned. If not, you have the opinion of a professional to lean on.
Make the Transition Easy
You can’t just drop the news and be done with it. There will be a difficult transition period and your parent will need alternative ways to get to all the places they need and want to go.
Research local rideshare options. Take Advantage of the Veterans Transportation Program. Show them how to use Uber. You’ll have to account for the extra costs of getting around by taxi or public transportation, but selling the car and no longer having to pay for gas or maintenance can help with that. And family members should pitch in too – plan on helping with errands and rides to their regular activities. For senior drivers, giving up the car shouldn’t and doesn’t have to mean giving up the things they like to do.