That feeling most people have when they embark on their first solo car ride; the freedom, the music and the independence. It is for most, a never-forget moment. But, now you or your loved one is older, suffering from vision issues perhaps, or maybe arthritis or some memory issues. Driving is causing caregivers to worry about their loved ones, but how do you talk to your “Dad” about taking away his keys and hanging up his driving gloves.
Talking with an older person about his or her driving is often difficult. For many older adults, “giving up the keys” means a loss of freedom of choice and movement. Many people are afraid of being dependent upon someone else for getting around. They worry about losing the ability to run errands, attend appointments, and participate in activities that they did on their own for decades. They may be concerned about becoming socially isolated and missing out.
According to the National Institute on Aging, here are some tips that might help when talking with someone about no longer driving:
- Be prepared. Learn about local community services to help someone who can no longer drive before you have the conversation with them. Identify the person’s transportation needs.
- Consider broaching the topic gradually. Some experts suggest a gentle introduction of the driving conversation, and then revisiting it gradually over time.
- Avoid confrontation.Use “I” messages rather than “you” messages. For example, say, “I am concerned about your safety when you are driving,” rather than, “You’re no longer a safe driver.”
- Stick to the issue. Discuss the driver’s skills, not their age.
- Focus on safety and maintaining independence. Be clear that the goal is for the older driver to continue the activities they currently enjoy while staying safe. Offer to help the person stay independent. For example, you might say, “I’ll help you figure out how to get where you want to go if driving isn’t possible.”
- Be positive and supportive. Recognize the importance of a driver’s license to the older person. Realize they may become defensive, angry, hurt, or withdrawn during your conversation. You might say, “I understand that this may be upsetting,” or “Let’s work together to find a solution.”
Using these tactics can help make this change easier for all, but always remember the anger and frustration that your loved one may express is normal and continued compassion and conversation can help make it easier for all.