Talking with Your Parents About Driving

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Are you worried about your elderly loved ones driving? Today, we’d like to share some tips and ideas about approaching your senior loved one as driving becomes a little bit more challenging.

Welcome to The Senior Circle, where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

Hi, everyone. One of the most difficult things to realize as an adult child is that driving for your elderly loved one, your senior parents, has become either dangerous or challenging. It’s difficult to understand how much driving means to our seniors, but if you think about it, as we were growing up, remember how much we looked forward to becoming 16 and getting that driver’s license and what that meant to us? It meant a certain level of independence. It meant that we could go where we wanted to go when we wanted to go there, and that’s exactly what it means for our parents. Their independence is crucial, and whenever something is threatened in that realm of their independence, it’s hard.

One of the things that’s really important for us as adult children is to just pay attention to certain things, because there are things that can affect our loved one’s driving and they could be health issues, they could be medication related, they could just be age-related issues that are making driving dangerous, unsafe, just not the best thing for our loved ones.

A lot of times their memory is affected, and that’s certainly a problem. We want our loved ones to be able to remember where they’re going, how to get home, et cetera. Aging can impact their decision making. It can become harder to see. Vision is important. We need to be able to see where we’re going. We need to be able to see other vehicles and react to them. We need to be able to read the signs and see traffic signals in order to drive effectively. We can see that our elderly loved ones, many times, become just a little bit slower in their reaction time, and that makes driving challenging as well.

So we really need to watch for certain signs, and there are some things that could show us that there just might be a problem. Seeing a few more dings and bumps on mom or dad’s car could be indicative of an issue. You know, when you start seeing them appear more often, that is something to certainly pay attention to. They might even share that they’ve gotten a few more tickets. You know, as violations start to creep up, that’s an area that we need to pay attention to. You’ll notice as well. As you’re hanging out with your parents, you’ll notice if their reaction time is just becoming a little bit slower. In day-to-day activities, we can see it, so we know that that’s affecting their driving as well. We want to make sure that they can see properly. As I’d mentioned, you know, vision is extremely important. They need to be able to see those traffic signals. They need to be able to respond to signs and see other traffic. That’s gonna make a huge difference for them.

So if you do recognize that there are some issues, as I said, it’s a hard conversation to have, but the best way to approach it is just be honest. Approach it honestly and gently remind your loved one that you’re concerned. You’re concerned for their safety and you understand that it really is a threat to their independence to consider stop driving, but that you really do worry about them being safe and being able to get where they need to go. Have some alternatives in mind. Do some research prior to talking to them because most communities actually have services available for seniors so that they can get out, they can get to church, they can go to the store, they can do the things that they need to do, and they can plan on doing them just in a slightly different way. There are professional services out there where a caregiver can actually use their vehicle in order to get them where they need to go, and that can be very effective as well.

Be prepared. Talk through these talking points with your senior and list the positive facts. List the positive things such as, you know, having a goal to reduce maybe even expenses, reduce stress. There are positives to not having the responsibility of a vehicle, insurance, et cetera. It’s hard to parent your parent. It really is. Just have patience with yourself. Give yourself some grace as you have these discussions, and just remind yourself of the potential danger that your loved one faces when they are driving unsafely. And, you know, material things can always be replaced, but lives, when lives are legitimately at risk, it definitely is time to have that conversation.

If you’d like to talk to somebody about this challenge and bounce some ideas off of someone, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll share ideas with you at Seniors Helping Seniors.  Give us a call today and we’ll help you out. Until next time, have a great day.

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