In what can be a very uncomfortable role reversal from your teenage years, there often comes a time where adult children need to take driving privileges away from their aging parents. Like your parents before you aren’t doing this to take away their independence, even though just as you did in high school they might see it that way. This is about safety. As people get older their reflexes diminish and they can’t do the things they used to do regularly. Just like an inexperienced driver with perfect reflexes can be a danger to themselves and others on the road, an elderly person with plenty of experience and slow reaction time can potentially hurt a lot of people. Though logical, taking away someone’s ability to drive can be a touchy subject to say the least. Here are some tips on how to navigate a very difficult conversation with your parents.
When you have this talk can go a long way towards a successful outcome. By the way a successful outcome is not only your parents finding alternative and safer transportation but not hating you for suggesting it. It goes without saying not to bring up the issue when either of them are in a bad mood. You might want to draw a connection between driving and a persistent complaint of theirs about their health, like being tired or having trouble seeing far away. It’s common to notice the skills related to driving are going away but rare for seniors to make the connection and stop getting behind the wheel. You can step in a gently connect the dots. In colder climates, it also helps to broach the subject in the winder when road conditions are worse and you can massage your points about you parents driving poorly by noting how tough it is to get around on icy roads.
Keep Them Independent
Most people aren’t as attached to the activity of driving as they are the independence that driving a car affords. Their objections to giving up driving privileges have little to do with a love of steering or changing lanes and are mainly interested in going where they want when they want. Understanding it’s about independence and mobility allows you to have an alternative means of transport arranged so your parent’s overall quality of life does not suffer. Uber is great for this. If f your city doesn’t have Uber or a similar service there are plenty of dedicated senior taxi esq companies that you can arrange pickups through or set up accounts with for your parents to manage. In some cases you can offer to drive them everywhere but that’s not always practical.
Make It Part Of A Larger Conversation
The inability to drive often coincides with the newfound inability to do other things as well. Many seniors move into homes or retirement communities as their driving skills deteriorate because those skills also allow them to perform other household tasks and retirement homes are a comfortable and dignified way of transitioning into a more “cared for” lifestyle. Even if you don’t go all the way towards a retirement home, moving to a smaller, easier to maintain house, in a neighbourhood that requires less driving could be a compromise that sets your parents on the path towards assisted living when they’re ready.
Use The Other Drivers Excuse
A statement like “you shouldn’t’ drive anymore” will always make a person defensive. Any discussion of your parents driving abilities, or anyone’s for that matter, can devolve into an argument very quickly. Sometimes the best way to deal with the inevitable “but I’ve been driving a car for 50 years” rebuttal is by shifting the blame from your parents driving skills to other drivers on the road. Make it about the specter of other bad drivers instead of their own reduced ability to handle a car. It’s not technically a lie and anyone with a modicum of self awareness will know that car crashes are a bigger deal for older people in terms of injury risk. This probably won’t put your argument over the top but it will help massage a difficult subject.
Come From A Place Of Love
This is the most important point. Don’t be confrontational. You’re doing this to help your parents live longer and safer. Its in their best interest even if they don’t want to admit it. Giving up something, especially something so routine like driving, is a big step. Respect how the idea must sound to your parents and do your best to present it with positivity and compassion.