Driving is just one of the many priveledges earned in a lifetime. It gives us a sense of confidence and independence. But as you age, your skills behind the wheel may begin to deteriorate. And, this usually isn’t related to aging, but more so the health concerns associated with growing old. As a caregiver, knowing when to take the keys from your aging loved one can help save their life or even someone else’s. And while this may be a tough issue to discuss with your parents, there are many options to explore when choosing the next step when driving is no longer an option.
Knowing When to Take the Keys
When you take the keys away from someone who has been driving 50 or more years, feelings are going to be hurt. Driving is one of the ways people know how to take care of themselves. To some, it is their preferred and only form of transportation. Going into a discussion like this will require proof and understanding. But to have evidence of deteriorating driving skills, you will need to know what to look for first.
Medical Problems– Elderly parents with medical conditions may be taking multiple prescription medications. Check the side effects on the bottle and seek counsel from a medical professional before letting them operate a vehicle.
Memory Loss– Memory loss can come in the form of forgetting everyday routines and becoming anxious. If their memory loss increases they may begin to lose their sense of direction or get lost in familiar, local places. If your parent exhibits this memory loss, it may be time to take the keys.
Poor Eyesight– A natural part of aging includes the aging of the eyes as well. If your senior is having trouble viewing road signs, traffic lights, or seeing the lanes, talk to them about having their eyes examined. It may be easier for them to give up driving if they hear it from their doctor first.
Decreased Muscle Mass– While it doesn’t take much physical strength to operate a car, it still requires some skill in that area. Having less strength in the legs could mean difficulty operating pedals or even getting in or out of the car. They could be having difficulting turning the wheel or even changing gears. A simple fix may be to do more physical therapy to strengthen those muscles, but if the issues continue, it may be time to take the keys.
Marks on the Car– During visits to your parent’s house, pay attention to the car in the driveway. If you notice any marks on the sides of the car or even the front lawn, talk to them about where the marks came from. If it is due to their driving, start talking to them about why they think they ran into or scraped some objects.
Getting Help and Alternative Transportation
If it is time to take the keys away from your elderly parent, have a physician assist you in breaking the news. Chances are, they already have a relationship with your parent and have already made the call for other senior citizens. If they are slow to accept the news, have alternative methods of transportation ready to suggest. These can include:
Limited Driving– If your parents are not suffering from any medical conditions, but are not as confident of a driver, limit their drive time. Let them drive during a time they feel most confident. This could be only driving during the day, avoiding highways, and skipping rush-hour. This method allows them to maintain independence and avoid accidents.
Public Transportation or Driving Services– While they may not be able to drive themselves around, they can still maintain their sense of travel through public transportation. Purchase a public transit card for them to take the bus. There are also driving services such as Uber and Lyft that offer a personalized transportation service.
Be the Taxi– Take some time a few days of the weeks to drive your parent where they need to go. Chances are it won’t be far, and having someone they know and trust to drive them around will make them feel better.