Telling Elderly Parent to Stop Driving
Truthfully, a difficult decision and discussion. There is no universal approach for family members and parents on this issue. It is normal and natural to question how best to broach conversation with Mom and Dad. Families are not sure what to say, or, most importantly, how to say it in a way that would not be insulting — and yet accomplish the desired effect of getting your elderly parent to stop or seriously limit their driving.
Each individual case, each circumstance, is different. However, families should not procrastinate and delay the initiation of discussion. What can be controlled by the family is when, and how, to start the conversation. And sometimes, it is a big relief to the senior to admit driving difficulties.
At Home Care Partners, we assist seniors who lack the competencies for activities of daily living — let alone the ability and functionality to handle a car and drive in traffic. Generally, we assist this situation in two ways: 1) We take the senior as a passenger on errands. So we accomplish the errands consisting of dry cleaning, shopping, groceries, etc. with the elder as passenger while maintaining a safe and secure engagement. And/or, 2) our care staff can run some of these errands independently of the senior, who is able to remain comfortable at home.
Seniors, as a group, are relatively safe drivers. The actual number of accidents involving older drivers decreases as age increases. Experts attribute this to self-imposed limitations that include driving fewer miles and avoiding problematic situations like driving at night, during rush hour and on high speed roadways.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that drivers over age 75 have a higher risk of being involved in an accident for every mile they drive. The rate of fatalities increases significantly by this age — in fact, it is on par with teenage drivers (a very sobering thought).
A survey of older adults found that more than half said they followed the suggestions of others, with women generally more compliant than men. They may prefer to hear it from professionals like their doctor, or their spouse. But they will listen to their adult children.
Seniors will respond with sadness when spoken to about their driving. While they may even agree with the assessment and express relief, they likely feel depressed at the thought of relinquishing this activity. After all, the implications are significant — lack of independence, fewer trips outside the home, increased dependency on others, fewer social opportunities, and the fear of becoming a burden to others. The car represents their lifeline to the outside world.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164