One of the hardest things for an adult child of elderly parents to do is make their mothers and fathers understand that their driving days are over for good. The message is never a welcome one and can drive a deep rift between the parents and child and sometimes between siblings with differing views.
But the bottom line is that this hard discussion may one day be necessary — and it may be sooner than you think. If you are dreading this moment, read on for some tips to make your message a bit more palatable.
Make sure it’s necessary
Drivers of any age can get involved in accidents, so a single collision is not necessarily indicative that your elderly parent should no longer drive. But, it could be a major red flag. If your mom or dad was involved in an accident, no matter how minor, look further into it. Obtaining a copy of the police report can identify who was at fault and be the springboard for a discussion about driving.
You should also be aware that a person’s advanced years is not a de facto reason to give up driving entirely. Many senior citizens who would no longer dream of driving after dark or on the interstate are perfectly safe navigating familiar roads to the grocery store, doctor, hair appointments and worship services.
Age alone is not a reason to take away a person’s driving privileges. However, seniors are at risk for numerous health conditions that impact driving. For example, age-related changes can affect memory and decision-making processes, the ability to see and hear clearly, reaction times and other skills and abilities that are required for the safe operation of a motor vehicle.
Monitor your parent’s health
Alzheimer’s is but one condition affecting senior citizens that can induce dementia — there are many others, including:
- Late-stage alcoholism
- Pick’s disease
It can be difficult with HIPAA laws to get a beat on your parents’ diagnoses. The best way is to remain involved in their lives and keep the lines of communication open so they share their health concerns and conditions with you. Armed with this information, you can closely monitor their symptoms and be alert for signs their driving skills have diminished.
Having “the talk”
Before broaching this delicate topic with them, make sure that all siblings are on the same page. Otherwise, you face added opposition that is most unhelpful. When you address the matter, make sure that you come from a place of love and compassion. Also, be armed with solutions to the dilemmas they will face having their transportation options severely limited.
Be prepared for opposition (and possible compromise). It’s a given they won’t like the message — and might “shoot the messenger.” If you can’t get them to agree to give up the keys, see if you can get them to voluntarily limit their driving to very short jaunts. Stress to them the guilt and horror they would feel if their driving claimed an innocent party’s life.
If you were injured in an accident with a senior citizen who should not have been driving, you likely have grounds for filing a claim for damages for your injuries and other losses.