Independence, it’s what we long for as young people and what we strive to maintain as we enter our golden years.  With so many life changes facing our older generation there are certain things we as the children and grandchildren of this generation need to consider.  Is it safe for mom and dad to live unassisted? Is there a plan in place in case of the inevitable?  Basically, lots of not-so-fun things we need to talk about and plan for.  One of the major issues that we face when we think about the independence of our older loved ones is, is it safe for them to be behind the wheel?  Being able to drive from point A to point B on your own plays a major role in the health and wellbeing of the elderly.  Driving keeps them connected to friends, enables them to attend social outings, makes them feel like they are not being a ”burden” to their loved ones.  But there may come a point where it is unsafe for them to be on the road and this can be a hard conversation to have, let alone to start.  So how do you know when it is time for mom or dad to hand over the keys?  There are a few important things to look for before making a decision about this.  Remember, taking away the ability to drive will in essence be taking away their sense of freedom and render them dependent on others.  This is not an easy transition and it is one that may be met with resistance.  You have to approach the subject gently and well informed.

Things To Consider Before Having ”The Conversation”

Does your parent have any cognitive impairments or neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s?  People with Alzheimer’s can become disoriented at any time and can therefore put their safety and the safety of others on the road at risk if this happens.

Does your parent take any medication that may make him or her drowsy?  We’ve all read the labels about not operating heavy machinery while on certain meds.  This warning is there for a reason!

Does your parent have decreased dexterity/flexibility/mobility?  All of these things are essential when driving.  If your reflexes have slowed and you cannot switch from the gas to the brake quickly enough, an accident can occur.

Does your parent have any vision deficits?  Not all vision impairments make driving a no-no.  It may just mean limiting all driving to daytime hours.  This is something that you will have to determine together and possibly with the advice of a doctor.

If you know any or all of the above issues to be true it may be time to consider some alternative transportation options.  Again, it is important to remember to be sensitive because becoming dependent on others can be a traumatic event for some.  Remember too, that an isolated incident such as backing into a parked car or getting a ticket may not be a reason to take the keys just yet.  Look for a pattern of incidents before coming to any conclusions.  If your parent has had multiple accidents, multiple tickets or frequent ”close calls” then signs are probably pointing to staying off of the road.

How To Have ”The Conversation” In a Positive Way

Now that you’ve pinpointed the patterns in your parents’ driving that make it unsafe for them to be on the road, it is time to sit down and have a talk with them.  This won’t be easy!!  The main things to keep in mind are to be honest, come armed with facts, present them with a plan and make them a part of the decision making process. Check the local public transportation website for your area as a jumping off point.  Many offer shared-ride programs with discounted fares that will pick your loved ones up at their door and drop them off at their destinations.  This access to immediate independence could help soften the blow of this difficult decision. This service is a guaranteed way to offer some more independence to your mom or dad at a time where they may have felt like they had none.

For more informationa and tips on how to broach this topic with your family members visit:

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