Having a conversation with your senior loved one, such as an aging parent, is never easy. But it’s a conversation that has to take place as they get older, especially if they have been getting into frequent accidents that require expensive body repair. Or perhaps they’re getting lost more frequently.
Whatever the case, it can be tough talking to your loved one about their driving abilities. For many, the ability to drive equals independence, so it can be difficult for them to give up that freedom after having it for so many decades. But even though they may go slow on the roads and wear their seat belts, the risk of fatality from a collision does increase with age, says Medicare.
The elderly, especially as they reach their 80s, are more fragile, frail and vulnerable to injury that arises from a collision. Then when you add in medical conditions such as arthritis or dementia, along with medication usage, the risk of accidents increases even more.
When to Have the “Conversation”
Noticing a decline in your loved one’s driving abilities? You may want to initiate a conversation if they:
- Have been in one or more car accidents recently
- Have had a close call
- Have run a red light or stop sign
- Received a driving violation ticket
- Are starting to speed or drive more slowly
- Are experiencing signs of memory loss
- Are taking medications that could impair driving, such as narcotics, anti-anxiety drugs, or sleeping pills
- Have problems seeing or hearing
- Have a medical condition such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, muscular degeneration, or sleep apnea
Often times, you may feel the time is right for a conversation if you just do not feel safe as their passenger any longer. As an adult child having this talk with your aging parent, this can be quite intimidating. But you can make things easier if you heed these helpful tips.
Decide Who Will Initiate the Conversation
Choosing the right person to initiate the conversation can make all the difference. Studies show that married drivers want to hear from their spouses first about driving concerns. Drivers who live alone prefer to talk about these concerns with their adult children, a doctor or close friend.
To avoid an awkward confrontation, don’t hold an intervention with the whole family. This will put them on the defensive. Pick a time when they feel the most relaxed, perhaps after lunch when they’ve eaten a good meal but before sundowning hits in the afternoon.
Give Them Reasons
Be prepared to offer reasons why they shouldn’t drive any longer. Cite recent physical changes, health conditions, sleep problems, or new medications and explain how those things can all impair driving.
Above all, be supportive when having the conversation so they don’t feel lectured to or attacked. Let them know you’re only concerned about their safety and that of others on the road.
If they are worried about keeping up with their lifestyle, make suggestions on how you can accommodate those needs. Perhaps you or a sibling, close friend or a combination of many people can transport them back and forth from doctor appointments, coffee with friends, hair appointments, or church services. Come up with a schedule to ensure there are no gaps in coverage.
If, after assessing their driving abilities, you have all come to the conclusion that limited driving would be an option for now, you may consider:
- Avoiding driving in bad weather or at night
- Driving in familiar places only, perhaps within a few miles of home
- Avoiding highways or busy main roads
- Limiting distractions
Suggest a Driving Test
We all have to take a driver’s test when we’re 16. Why not when we’re 70? It makes sense. You may want to suggest they take a driver’s test to reaffirm their skills. Actually, in some states, it’s a law that drivers over the age of 75 must take a road test when renewing their license. But if you don’t live in one of those states, sign them up for a skills evaluation by a driving instructor or get a clinical assessment by an occupational therapist. This will help determine a baseline and pinpoint possible causes of driving ability decline.
Contact Hance’s Uptown Collision Center
We hope it never happens, but if your senior loved one has gotten into a fender bender or any accident that has caused body damage, schedule an appointment online or call us in Dallas at 214-214-4730 or Plano at 214-225-5966.