One of the most difficult issues to approach with an elderly loved one is their ability to drive. Driving makes many people, regardless of their age, feel a sense of independence and control over their lives. Losing the ability to drive can be a real blow to an elderly person, and, if not approached correctly, can put them on the defense. There are ways to have the “it’s time to stop driving” talk with your elderly loved one that will be less offensive to them and will hopefully be seen as helpful.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has developed a free online seminar in conjunction with The Hartford and MIT AgeLab called “We Need to Talk” that tackles this very issue. Here are some of the best ways that you, a concerned loved one, can approach your elderly loved one when you think it might be time for them to cease driving.
Approach The Topic in a Sympathetic Manner
Remember that, to your elderly loved one, driving equals freedom and independence. Without the ability to drive, he or she might feel trapped, scared and alone. Think about how it feels when you are told you can’t do something. Don’t be surprised if their initial reaction is frustration, denial and/or hostility. Remain calm and keep your own emotions under control despite their reaction.
List the Facts
Make sure that you have good, valid reasons ready as to why you think they should stop driving. If they have received many traffic warnings or tickets, enumerate them. If you (or other friends or family members) have observed unsafe behavior while they are driving, tell them what that behavior is. If their physical health is limiting their ability to drive, ask for their physician’s cooperation in making a recommendation. Being informed is important when approaching this subject with your elderly loved one.
Give Them Alternatives
Offer alternative methods of transportation that they can use. Suggest public transportation if available, or recruit other friends or family members to help out if you cannot always be there to transport them yourself. Look into the costs of ridesharing apps like Lyft or Uber. Look for free or low-cost transportation alternatives within your community that may be offered to senior citizens. Have these alternatives outlined for them, on paper, so that they can see them and know that there are still ways that they can get where they need to go, without driving.
Give Them Time
Your elderly loved one might not agree with you immediately when you tell them you think they should stop driving. Give them time to get used to the idea. Remember, this is a big step, and baby steps might be needed to get them to completely give up driving. Perhaps you can get them to agree to let someone else drive them to medical appointments, for a start? If they can see that it is possible for them to get around to some places without driving themselves, they might be more apt to eventually agree to giving up driving altogether.
When All Else Fails, Enlist a Professional’s Help
If you have done all of this and your elderly loved one still refuses to even consider giving up driving, get a professional involved. This could be their doctor, a local driving school, or the motor vehicle administration of your state. If a doctor is concerned about a patient’s driving ability, he or she can request that they be tested again by the motor vehicle administration. An occupational therapist may also be hired to evaluate your loved one’s driving skills. Sometimes the word of a professional will be more highly valued by an elderly person than the opinion of a family member or friend.