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Worried About Your Senior Parent Behind the Wheel?

If your parent's driving abilities are starting to slip, it may be time to have a discussion about giving up the keys.

Are you starting to worry about your aging parent’s driving skills?

As people age, their joints get stiff and muscles may weaken. Eyesight and hearing often change as we get older, reflexes slow, attention spans change, and health problems and medications may make it difficult to drive safely.

Having the discussion about giving up the keys can be a touchy and difficult one to have with your parent, but it is a very important one.

Before starting the discussion, plan how you’re going to approach the subject. Think about how the situation looks from your parent’s point of view. What does driving mean to him or her?

Make sure your expectations are realistic. Consider this a preliminary discussion as this one conversation will most likely not wrap up the issue neatly.

You’ll also want to consider your own role. It’s not up to you to convince the person to instantly give up driving. Without extenuating circumstances, it’s best to respect your parent’s right to make decisions about his or her life – with input and support from you.

You could give up your car for a couple weeks to see what your parent will be facing. Even if you don’t do that, give some thought to the emotional and practical issues your parent will be facing without a car.

When you’re ready to have the discussion, plan it for a quiet time of day when you both are relaxed, rested, and have no other obligations in the near future.

Once you bring it up, try not to be too forceful right away or you’ll set off the conversation on the wrong foot. If you do, your parent may get immediately defensive or tune you out. A good way to initiate the discussion is with a question.

Your parent may tell you all the reasons why he or she can’t stop driving. Encourage him or her to discuss these concerns without immediately jumping to solutions. They may offer temporary comfort, but they won’t help explore the larger issues involved. Instead, encourage your parent to keep talking about his or her worries and reflect upon them.

Prepare for a long conversation. Your parent may begin to talk about the past, but resist the temptation to interrupt and get him or her back on track.

As the conversation goes on, ask your parent directly what he or she thinks should be done about the driving. Jot down some pros and cons of continuing driving and ceasing driving.

Agree to talk again in a couple of days once everyone has had a chance to think about the options.

If your loved one acknowledges he or she is having difficulty driving, find out why. Make appointments with his or her doctor. A simple prescription change or new glasses could fix the problem.

You could also discuss interim measures. Maybe suggest he or she only drive during the day, or that he or she take a driving refresher course.

In any case, discuss other transportation options with your parent. Take a ride on the bus with him or her, get some information on local senior transportation, and encourage him or her to ride with friends or family.

If your parent is resistant to the discussion, drop it for a little bit. If you engage in a battle, he or she will only become more resistant. After a while, bring it up again and try again.

If your parent lives independently and is not ready to give up driving, consider in-home care. These compassionate professionals are glad to run errands, go to the grocery store, take him or her to the doctor, and perform other driving tasks.

Want to know more about our in-home care, assisted living services, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and veterans assistance? Give us a call at 860-533-9343 or stop by and see us.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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