Driving for a senior is a lot like driving for a teenager. At any age, driving equals freedom and independence. If you have a parent or relative who has been driving for years, it’s likely they have no concept that this privilege may one day disappear. This can make having a discussion with them somewhat scary. Senior Living Management has some suggestions on how to discuss this sensitive yet important topic, and how to notice the signs that a conversation with your senior loved one is necessary.
Watch for Changes in Driving
Make it a point to ride with your senior parent or relative to get a feel for their current driving skills. Head to the grocery store or visit a family member with them and see if they are:
- Braking/accelerating too quickly or erratically
- Easily distracted
- Coming too close to or hitting curbs
- Missing turns or getting lost or confused
- Hugging the outside solid line
- Miscalculating distances
- Crossing the middle line
- Having difficulty merging
- Not using their signals correctly
- Having trouble reading signs
Plan For The Discussion
Preparing for a sensitive discussion such as this one will be key. You may want to do some research beforehand to have backup plans A and B in place in case your loved one becomes frustrated or agitated. For instance, talk with their doctor to see if they can write a letter stating your senior loved one needs an eye exam and driving test from your state’s department of motor vehicles. Having the news delivered by a neutral party can help lessen the sting and keep your relationship stable. You can also set up local ride alternatives with family, a neighbor, or even a local car service. Before approaching your loved one about their driving, be sure to review AARP’s We Need To Talk online seminar for more helpful tips and a preview of your own conversation to come.
Empathize With Your Loved One
Your loved one has been an elder for most of their life and now the tables are turning. Ego and pride are at risk of being damaged when the privilege of driving is taken away. Going into this conversation, be sure to reflect on the times you found yourself in situations like this one. Maybe you were a teenager and had the car taken away, or you were grounded and couldn’t leave to see your friends. Tap into your own empathy to connect with your senior loved one. In this way, you will be more understanding of their reactions, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy understanding of their feelings.
Have Facts at the Ready
Depending on your parent or relative’s personality, facts might be very helpful in this discussion. For example, according to AAA, “per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80.” You can stress to your loved one that you would never want them or their spouse to become a statistic.
If you’d like to learn more about how to handle sensitive topics with your senior loved one, visit our blog.