One of the toughest conversations to have with an elderly parent is when it is time for them to stop driving. People are very possessive of their freedom and driving yourself is perhaps the activity that is most closely associated with this. Not being able to drive yourself places can feel restrictive and create the illusion that you are trapped in your home. This is not a pleasant feeling for anyone. However, oftentimes this becomes a necessary evil. Besides teenagers, the elderly are the next most likely group to get traffic tickets for running a red light. The sad reality is that as we get older, our reaction times begin to slow. Once it gets to a certain point, driving is just too dangerous for the elderly. This occurs at different rates for different individuals, so it is important that as a caring son or daughter, we observe our parents’ driving behavior in order to make sure that they remain safe.
You don’t want your parent to get in an accident where they could hurt themselves or someone else. Having this conversation with your parent is not an easy task. The important point to remember is that you are taking their keys in order to protect them and others on the road. While this is not the most pleasant conversation to have-basically everyone wants to hang onto their freedom to drive-it is a necessary one if you truly love your parent. Don’t be surprised to have them become hostile, just remain calm and stress your points once again. They won’t be happy, but maybe they will be able to see things from your point of view.
What should you look for when determining your parent’s driving abilities? You want to make sure they drive in their lane, they make turns at the proper spots, they remember how to get to familiar locations, and that they use the correct pedal at the correct time, just to name a few of the most important points. Many of these warning signs can be an indicator of a more severe problem. For example, if they have trouble remembering where their home is, you will want them to seek medical attention as this can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Being a responsible citizen and a loving child sometimes requires making difficult decisions. Don’t be afraid of angering your parent. Just stay calm and let them vent. This is important, and if they are truly a dangerous driver, you need to do the right thing and let them know you are taking away their keys. Preserving their health and safety is a wonderful way to say “I love you,” even if they don’t see it that way.