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Knowing When to Take Car Keys from an Aging Senior

By July 29, 2015Aging in Place

One of the most difficult issues to tackle with an aging loved one is the issue of driving. Caregivers and family members may realize it’s time to take away the keys long before the senior recognizes or acknowledges the problem. Even physicians are hesitant to talk to their patients about not driving, leaving the onus of the decision on families.

For the senior, not being able to drive can be emotionally devastating. They may feel that they have lost their independence, identity, and ability to be self-sufficient.

Statistically, seniors are often able to drive into their seventies and eighties. In fact, older drivers have a lower crash rate than drivers 25 years old, however, they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in an accident.

Here are some tips to help you recognize it’s time to seriously consider taking the keys away from your aging loved one.

Signs that you should monitor the senior’s driving:

  • The senior’s eyesight changes substantially and begins to impair their ability to complete daily tasks
  • Hearing loss is increasing
  • Limited mobility
  • Emerging chronic conditions such as arthritis or Parkinson’s
  • Onset of memory loss, dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frequently startled
  • How to recognize it’s time to have the “no driving” discussion:

  • The senior is involved in an increasing number of fender benders
  • There are an increasing number of near misses on the road
  • You see scrapes and dents on the car, garage door, mail boxes
  • Rear view mirrors are missing
  • Increased number of traffic tickets and warnings
  • How do you approach the “no driving” discussion? Very carefully.

  • First make sure you are respectful and compassionate during the discussion. It helps to put yourself in the senior’s shoes and realize how truly upsetting this can be.
  • Be careful not to take an “accusatory” tone during the discussion
  • Be specific about why you believe the senior should no longer drive – keep a record of traffic tickets, fender-benders and other incidents that worry you
  • Calculate that savings that could occur by not driving – no car insurance, registration costs, etc.
  • Research transportation options and have them ready to show the senior
  • This is going to be a tough discussion. Even if the senior knows they should no longer be driving, they may resist handing over the keys. You may have to have several discussions on the issue and enlist help from a physician, clergyman or other influencer. If nothing works, you may have to find the keys and literally take them away. Then help the senior to move on with life using other viable transportation and lifestyle options.

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