Taking the Keys Away From Your Aging Parents

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Have mom or dad come dangerously close to getting into an accident recently? If so, it may be time to have another one of those “talks.” Though it’s never fun to discuss, driving can become increasingly difficult as you age, and sometimes it’s best to convince your parents it’s time to stop driving – for their safety and the safety of others.

Like many serious issues, taking the keys away is a very tough decision. Unlike some of the other problems, this one tends to sting when brought up, and you may have a difficult time to convincing your parents they need to make the change – even if all the signs are there.

Just as it was when you were 16, driving offers the chance for independence. When an adult has to stop driving, if often makes them feel helpless, restless and frustrated. It may even be a wakeup call that they are indeed getting older. As always, the best approach for this talk is to be sensitive and compassionate.

According to the National Institute on Aging, there are some critical indications that a senior is or has lost the ability to drive safely. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Getting lost frequently, even while driving on familiar roads
  • Failing to use turn signals or keeping them on without changing lanes
  • Trouble reading street signs or navigating directions, often due to vision loss
  • Decreased peripheral vision, even with corrective lenses
  • Erratic driving, such as abrupt lane changes, braking or acceleration
  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Failing to use turn signals or keeping them on without changing lanes
  • Struggling to maintain speed or drive as higher speeds
  • A series of at-fault accidents, or scrapes or dents in the car from minor accidents
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • Not looking over their shoulder to check lanes, trouble shifting gears, or confusing the gas and brake pedals

If you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to open the floor for discussion. Difficulty driving can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including a decreased range of motion and mobility; chronic conditions such as arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes and more; medications that cause drowsiness or other side effects, and hearing or vision loss. It could even indicate the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Before the conversation, decide on a plan of action. Anyone present for the discussion should be on the same page. A group of trusted friends and family members may aid the talk, but don’t include too many people. It shouldn’t feel like the dreaded “intervention,” and it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Try to keep the tone respectful – adult to adult – to avoid any unintentional condescension. And don’t be accusatory; it could make mom or dad even more upset.

Once you’ve all come to terms on a decision, it’s imperative you find alternative transportation for your loved ones. From taxi and bus services, to volunteer-driven rides, there are many options out there. Try reaching out to your area office on aging for more information on free or discounted transportation for seniors.

Remember, giving up your keys is a huge sacrifice in freedom, and it’s important your loved one continue on with their regular schedule and remain as active as possible. A significant decrease in activity could contribute to isolation and even depression. And above all, don’t forget to voice your support and love.

This information is provided by CarePatrol of Baltimore, a senior housing placement agency that serves the Baltimore city and county areas. If you or your loved ones needs to find a new home, consider talking to a CarePatrol housing placement specialist. They will sit down with you, assess your needs and financial situation, and offer the best options they can find. They are also available for tours and guidance during your final search. You can contact a specialist at (410) 844-0800 or [email protected] Also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CarePatrolBaltimore.

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