For most seniors, driving is typically one of the more significant symbols of their independence. So, when that ability is called into question, it is understandable that it might not be something they are willing to listen to. According to a study done at the University of Colorado, the driving discussion is something that the elderly, family members, and even healthcare professionals tend to avoid.
However, safety comes first, always. And although it’s not easy, it must be done. If you’re dreading the big driving discussion, here are some ways you can make the conversation easier for everyone involved.
If talking directly and candidly is difficult, start by planting the seed. Bring up topics around driving and safety even before any real concerns occur. If done early, you can put the onus on them, “What will be the indicators that the time has come for you to stop driving?”
But when doing this, remember always to keep your questions simple and non-threatening. As a family caregiver, if you don’t feel comfortable broaching the subject or feel that the senior might shrug off the issue, you can request that their physician address the topic.
Many seniors might not recognize that their driving is becoming unsafe for themselves and others, so it’s best to have the conversation as early as possible.
Before you speak to your loved ones, make sure they are in the right mood for a serious conversation. Let them know that there is something important you need to discuss and ask them when it’s a good time to talk to them.
When you bring up the issue of unsafe driving, do so with compassion. Validate their feelings and let them know that you are listening and that you understand. Admit that it’s a difficult situation for them and assure them that you will do whatever you can to help keep them mobile and as independent as possible. And most importantly, don’t enter the conversation as if the decision has already been made without their input.
If your loved one resists the conversation, try to insist on it gently. Bring up any health issues that could affect their driving and encourage them to get the opinion of a medical professional. In some cases, changes in medication or new glasses might improve their functional skills, allowing them to drive for a little longer. There are several driving rehabilitation programs available that can help solve driving-related issues for some older adults. You can suggest programs like AARP’s Smart Driver as a way to get insurance discounts – as well as an objective evaluation of their driving skills.
The driving discussion is a symbol of a senior’s lost independence, so when you talk about it, try to bring alternative solutions to the table so you can address their concerns. Doing this research in advance will also allow you to answer their questions about how they can keep living their lives while maintaining their autonomy.
Letting your loved ones know that there are still ways to get around town and be mobile will help them get onboard faster since they know they won’t be confined at home. These alternatives can include rides from friends and family, public transportation, local transit services, ridesharing programs, and more. If they resist, let them know that you are doing this out of concern for them and the community, and ask if they would be willing to try it out for some time, after which you can revisit the conversation and see how they feel. Doing it gradually will help you gain momentum. Offer to set up and pay for a rideshare service when they go out to meet family or get dinner. This allows them to “see” the options before signing up to relinquish their driving rights.
The conversation around taking the keys away from an older adult is always a difficult and contentious one, but it’s a discussion that needs to happen. As with all things, the earlier you address it, the better, but remember to be supportive, kind, patient, and compassionate throughout.
If you’re having trouble with the driving discussion, or don’t know how to get started, let Oasis Senior Advisors help. Their team can provide knowledge and expertise in all things related to elder care at no cost to you or your family. Get in touch by calling 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or fill out their online form.