You can’t always be there. But we can.
Everyone ages differently, so there is no set age when your mom should stop driving. Instead, determining when it’s time for mom to give up the keys requires you to be attentive for signs that she may be putting herself or others at risk when she is behind the wheel. Sometimes elders do not want to give up driving and may ignore the signs themselves, so it falls on caregivers to make the determination and talk to the elder about no longer driving.
But, how can you know when it’s time? Signs that your mom may need to give up driving include:
Scrapes and dents on the car or on fences, posts, etc.
Difficulty moving her legs from the gas to the brake.
Frequently forgetting where she parked.
Difficulty seeing or following signs and traffic signals.
Having accidents or being ticketed.
Problems turning neck and shoulders to check the rearview.
Other drivers beeping or complaining.
Errors in judgement, such as gaps in traffic or when it is safe to change lanes.
Talking to Your Elder Parent
Having a conversation with your elder parent about giving up driving could be challenging. You don’t want to anger or upset your parent, so you’ll need to approach the subject carefully and with respect. Don’t make unfounded accusations. Instead, focus on the facts you know, such as medical conditions and traffic citations. Have the conversation one on one rather than inviting the whole family to the discussion. Being confronted by several people at once may make your mom feel as though she is being attacked.
Your mom isn’t likely to take the news with a smile, so finding positive things to focus on can help. For example, remind your mom of the money she will save when she no longer has to pay for gas, insurance, or vehicle maintenance. No longer driving also means she gets to slow the pace of her life a bit. There’s no need to run here and there anymore.
You should also reassure your mom that no longer driving doesn’t mean that she will be stuck in the house all the time. Being prepared ahead of time with options for her to get around can be helpful. You may want to have a list of people ready that she can call for a ride, or offer to show her how to use public transportation to get where she needs to go.
Helping Your Parent Remain Independent
Probably your mom’s main concern about giving up driving is that she will be losing some of her independence. She’ll probably wonder how she is supposed to get to appointments, go grocery shopping, or make it to social engagements. One way you can help your mom stay independent is by hiring an in-home elder care provider to assist her. An in-home elder care provider can set a schedule with your mom to drive her to regular appointments, do her weekly shopping, or even drive her to club meetings and other social gatherings. In addition, an in-home elder care provider is an added layer of support for family caregivers since they are one more person ensuring your mom stays healthy and safe.