To an elderly parent, driving is not so much about transportation, but rather independence and control. Taking the privilege to drive away means taking that control away from them. That being said, the unfortunate reality is that an elderly parent behind the wheel that can no longer safely control a vehicle is very dangerous.
The "talk" is not merely one sit-down session, but a series of conversations. The discussion may be brought up by certain catalysts like your parent getting lost on the road, upsetting impatient drivers, or having some minor dings on the road. Things like these happen because depth perception changes and reflexes start to slow down. Many times, seniors are already aware that they're having troubles on the road. Often they are aware because they are having problems seeing at night, scared of driving on freeways, and confused by heavy traffic. Some, however, genuinely will not see the problem or will blame others.
Communicating the reality of the situation to your loved one may be one of the toughest conversations you will have, but having that open line of communication is important to make it a comfortable transition. Most may want to hear this conversation from a spouse than from their children. After a spouse, a doctor or specialist, with children coming in last. How do you approach this subject? Very carefully, but here are a few things to keep in mind and can also help you with this sensitive topic.
To avoid dealing with someone who is on the defensive, start by acknowledging that you are aware of what the older adult has been doing to stay safe. When this has been established, give them some well-researched options for alternate transportation and home delivery of essentials. It may also be helpful to calculate how much they are spending in car payments, insurance, and registration and apply this towards the alternate transportation.
Talking may not always be an effective step in getting an elderly parent to realize the severity of the situation. If this is the case, you may have to approach their doctor with the subject. Doctors need to report them to the Department of Motor Vehicles as unfit to drive.
Senior driving restrictions vary from state to state. Currently in Minnesota, for example, drivers are required to renew a license every four years, but Minnesota law specifies that age alone is not justification for reexamination. Senior driver courses are also offered by AAA, as well as the Minnesota Safety and Research Center at St. Cloud State University. Completion of these courses allows seniors to become eligible for a 10% auto insurance discount.
The toughest thing about parenting your parent is laying down rules with someone who has been giving you rules your whole life. We need to remember that we should actually be working with them to realize that while growing older may require some lifestyle changes such as not driving, it need not lead to a deprived life.
Author Byline: Youa Vivica writes for a variety of blogs and websites including Meshbesher and Spence Personal Injury Blog online or on Facebook. Her specialty is car related safety topics.