One of the hardest decisions to make with an aging parent or relative is when to take their keys. Losing the ability to drive is a hard pill for many seniors to swallow. Most of them will have been driving themselves from place to place for fifty years or more. The thought of being confined to a single spot unless they can get a ride will probably not be met with gratitude. They will likely see themselves as trapped and think that their decision-making abilities are being taken away from them.
The important things to remember when talking to a parent or other loved one about their ability to drive is that they will almost certainly want to avoid the conversation and they will almost certainly be embarrassed about needing assistance—even if you are being proactive and having the conversation early before they are actually having problems. Persistence will be the key to making headway. Be supportive and make sure that your loved one knows that you are only bringing it up because you care about them and your worry that they will be hurt or that they will hurt others if they continue to drive.
One thing you should definitely take into the conversation with you is a viable alternative. Taking away your loved one’s keys does not take away their need to go places on a daily or weekly basis. Have a plan worked out with other trusted family or friends so that there will always be a ride available for your loved one when necessary. Give them plenty of alternatives so that they never feel confined to their home.
Even the best plans will never be fool-proof, though, so you will need a backup. Most cities and towns have public transportation specifically for the elderly that pick people up from their homes and take them to specific locations like doctor’s offices, grocery stores, or local senior centers. Often, these are free services, though their routes are usually fairly limited. When transporting your loved one regularly is no longer feasible and public transportation is inadequate, it may be time to consider in-home care services that include driving and accompanying your loved one to appointments and on shopping trips.
Deep down, everyone knows that they cannot continue to drive forever, but the ability to jump in a car and go wherever you want is a universal cultural symbol of freedom. Your loved one will likely resist the idea of giving up that freedom, but if the topic is approached correctly, you can make the transition more easily.