Aging in place and retaining the ability to drive are two hallmarks of independence and having to give up either of these could be a struggle. The difficulty with taking away the car keys is that your aging parents may truly believe they are still safe to be on the road and behind the wheel.
Adding a medical alert system to the home are key steps towards freedom…
It can be extremely difficult to convince them to stop driving. Along with your taking away their keys, keep in mind that someone in the family will need to step up to be on call to take your relatives to and from appointments and on grocery shopping excursions. The loss of car keys impacts both the elderly as well as the family.
How do you approach the conversation?
In some states, it is left up to the caregiver or other family member to make a determination on whether the elderly individual is still capable of driving. You may want to enlist the services and advice of the family physician when starting to discuss your aging parent giving up his or her right to be behind the wheel. Impress upon your relative that you’re concerned for their safety and that’s the reasoning behind your wanting them to stop driving. Bring up the conversation after you’ve been in the car with them behind the wheel. Take the time to assess their driving ability and see if you notice any confusion, uncertainty or hesitation behind the wheel.
Does your parent seem to get lost often? This could signal an early warning for dementia. Forgetfulness and difficulty navigating traffic are reasons to ask your parents to stop driving and rely on your assistance. Failing vision and motor skills make it dangerous for your parents and the other drivers on the road if they remain behind the wheel.
If your parent balks at giving up his or her driver’s license, suggest that they retake the driving exam. If they pass, then perhaps they are still capable of driving. If they fail the exam, then the decision is out of your hands and this may make it easier for all involved. If they refuse to take a test, check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state and see if there are any regulations on the retesting of aging drivers, and again, you may want to solicit the assistance of the family physician. AAA and agencies that cater to the elderly offer driving programs for mature drivers which help to either retrain them in the art of safe driving or help them see that maybe they shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Sign your relatives up for a class. You certainly don’t want to turn your relative into a statistic but explain to them that 10% of the drivers in the United States are 70-years-old or older and that is the age group that is involved in the most accidents on an annual basis.
Helping the elderly age in place can be a challenge for all. Updating and renovating the home to be elderly-friendly as well as adding a medical alert system to the home are key steps toward that end. When determining whether the elderly person in your life should retain the keys to the vehicle, it is a difficult discussion especially as it could be the last vestige of independence he or she has left.
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