At some point, you or another relative may believe that one of your parents no longer capable of safely operating a motor vehicle. Taking the keys away and prohibiting someone from driving may make them feel a major loss of autonomy because they feel they can no longer drive freely to the store, church or coffee shop to connect with friends.
Understandably, this situation can be extremely upsetting. However, for the physical well-being of everyone involved, including the safety of strangers on the road, a direct conversation may become necessary.
If the circumstances are urgent, take your loved one to their primary physician to determine their driving abilities. Confide in the doctor that you are concerned about their driving abilities, and ask for a letter to present to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Contact the DMV either in person or on the telephone to follow up on the doctor’s letter for the next steps. The decision is now in the hands of the DMV to determine whether or not your loved one is safe to continue driving, taking the responsibility off you. But that might not be necessary.
To begin the conversation, approach your parents in a calm and empathetic fashion. Imagine how you would feel in their position. When discussing taking away the keys, include your parents in the decision-making process. Acknowledge how they feel, and remind them of your personal concern and how you feel it is better to handle personally with family than by other people, such as the DMV or traffic court. Also describe that if the vehicle is sold, the money saved on gasoline, insurance and maintenance can now be used for other desires.
Resist conforming to child and parent roles, and maintain an adult dialogue. Stay on point with the facts of present chronic health conditions that prevent safe driving, prior fender-benders and any other safety concerns without blaming anyone. One important fact to point out is that older adults who are involved in automobile accidents are more likely to be seriously injured than a younger person in the same collision.
While they may present a supportive attitude during the conversation since they know your primary concern is their safety, recognize that asking them to physically hand over the car keys will possibly be uncomfortable. Describe this action as an empowering move, since it’s the safest decision for the senior and all others. Celebrate this moment.
If you’re concerned after taking the keys away that they may still try to drive, alter the keys so that they won’t work in the ignition. If the key is electronic, remove the battery. For further assistance, contact a mechanic for instructions on how to disable the key.
Ask your parents to write out a schedule of upcoming appointments and trips where they will need transportation, and reassure them that they will be able to get to their destinations without having to drive themselves. Continue to encourage your parents that their lifestyle won’t need to change with someone else driving. A Professional Caregiver can provide a significant service by offering endless opportunities to extend and enrich one’s quality of life by helping them maintain their former activities.
Identifying warning signs that a loved one is no longer able to drive safe and then speaking with them is undoubtedly a bold endeavor. Once they are reassured that the end of driving is not the end of independence, but rather an opportunity to continue to enhance their lives at home while maintaining a fruitful social life, you can rest assured that they will be safe and happy.