How to Talk to a Parent About Driving

Written by: Donna Scott, Administrator for Capitol Senior Care

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When the time comes in an adult’s life that you need to talk to your parents about their driving abilities, immediately many questions come to mind. What should you do to prepare ahead of time? How should you bring it up? What do you do if they continues driving after your conversation?

Here are some tips to help make an uneasy conversation manageable.

Before the Conversation

Do not wait until your parent’s driving abilities are in question.

  • Having the conversation before it’s detrimental will help you identify when and how driving may be modified for them.This makes having future conversations easier since expectations and guidelines have been set in place.

Introduce the topic as “driving retirement” instead of “hanging up” the keys.

  • Phrasing the topic as a retirement can make the situation sound more like a natural stage of life.

Brainstorm driving alternatives that will still allow them their independence.

  • Coming up with a family and friend schedule can provide both transportation and socialization which is a great combination. Services like Uber, Lfyt, Carts and public transportation are a great alternatives that still allow them their independence.

Having the Conversation

Starting the conversation can be stressful for everyone involved, but using the “Before the Conversation” tips and really understanding the effects this will have on your parent or loved one is always best.

Choose the best person to bring up the topic.

Do not be confrontational.

  • A confrontational approach may lead to the other person to be on defense, while being supportive and understanding will hopefully lead to a better outcome.

Choose the right time.

  • Do not wait until a major event, accident or change in health occurs. This approach will eliminate your loved one thinking that once they “get better” they can go back to driving from the start.

Take the focus away from the “senior” aspect.

  • Phrase the conversation to be more about their surroundings and not their abilities. All older adults are more vulnerable and less able to recover from an injury due to a car accident when they continue driving.

Remain calm.

  • Even if your loved one gets angry, upset or sad, remaining calm and supportive is mandatory.

Focus on alternatives.

  • This is where your “Before the Conversation” alternatives come to play. Make sure they understand that losing their car does not mean they lose their ability to travel or be independent.

Most of the time older adults will eventually understand their loved one’s concerns about driving are serious and legitimate, but there will be some who continue to drive. Should this issue arise there are other options for you to ponder such as speaking to a medical professional, scheduling a driving assessment or just taking the keys away, although these could all be confrontational approaches that should be thought out beforehand.

Always remember that even those this conversation will not be a pleasant and easy one, it is better to have it proactively instead of re-actively. Remaining calm and supportive will increase the likelihood of finding solutions that balance the importance of safety and their need for independence.