If you follow me on Facebook you saw the discussion we had last month about when to take the keys away from an elderly parent. Living in South Florida and hitting the highway is a VERY scary thing. Between the young guys who think that they own the road and weave in and out at 85-90mph and the seniors driving at 45 in the high speed lane, I’d rather stay home. I used to LOVE to drive, but after moving here 10 years ago, it became the thing that I really hate about living here. I began to think about that moment that Ben decides to take my keys (or Mr. S’) from me, and how I’d feel.
I’m sure that you have all been behind that car on the road. It is moving slower than could possibly be safe, seems to weaving from side to side, and when you finally take the chance to pass them, you see an elderly person at the wheel, either terrified but trying to get by or seemingly clueless as to how bad their driving really is.
We all get older, and that means that one day, this driver could be us. But sooner than that, it will be our parents. In fact, you may have already noticed signs that you parents should no longer be driving. And that means it is time to have a difficult conversation.
If Possible, Talk to Your Parents Before the Problem Arises
Ideally, you and your parents will have this conversation before their driving skills deteriorate. This allows them to think of the situation as a hypothetical and get more emotional distance. You can then put a plan in place, making it less likely that when the time comes, you will be met with resistance.
Get Past Your Nerves
By the time your parent is old enough that driving is a concern, you are clearly an adult yourself. However, most of us never really get past the feeling that it is wrong to try and offer our parents guidance, much less place limits on their behaviors. Despite the discomfort this discussion brings, you need to get past your nerves and have it. The safety of your parents and others on the road is more important than feeling at ease.
Go into the Conversation with a Plan
Telling your parents that you believe it is time to stop driving, and supporting this with reasons why, is really just half the battle. You also need to come to them with a plan. Few of us live in areas where not driving is an option. Public transportation is often not available, and in many towns, there isn’t even a taxi service. So, if you want your parents to stop driving, what alternatives are you going to propose? Think about things such as hiring drivers, offering rides yourself, and even relocating to a retirement home or assisted living center where transport is provided.
Be Calm in Your Delivery
You have to be careful with how you word your conversation. If you get heated or accusatory, chances are your parents will dismiss your concerns and become angry themselves. A calm delivery and gentle language is vital. Keep in mind that facing their decline in driving ability isn’t just about driving, but about their capabilities in general and facing their mortality. It is natural for them to feel sad, defensive, angry, and more.
Know Your Limits
Ultimately, unless you have power of attorney, you cannot force your parents to do anything. Keep this in mind as you enter into the conversation. And even if you do not get the results you seek the first try, continue to revisit the issue and work towards helping your parents realize their limits.