Wednesday September 20, 2017
How to Help Older Drivers Give Up the Car Keys
There's no doubt that giving up driving can be a tough step for many elderly people, as well as a difficult conversation for concerned family members. While there's no one way to handle this sometimes touchy topic, there are a number of tips and resources that can help you evaluate and adjust your mom's driving, and ease her out from behind the wheel when she can no longer drive safely.
Assess Her Driving
To get a clear picture of your mom's driving abilities, your first step—if you haven't already done so—is to take a ride with her and watch for problem areas. For example: Does she drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate or drift between lanes? Does she have difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes? Does she react slowly, get confused easily or make poor driving decisions? Also, has your mom had any fender benders or tickets lately, or have you noticed any dents or scrapes on her vehicle? These, too, are red flags. For more assessment tips see SeniorDriverChecklist.info.
If you need help with this, consider hiring a driver rehabilitation specialist who's trained to evaluate older drivers. This typically runs between $100 and $200. Visit AOTA.org/older-driver or ADED.net to locate a specialist in your area.
Transitioning and Talking
After your assessment, if you think it's still safe for your mom to drive, see if she would be willing to take a driving course tailored for seniors.
These courses will show her how aging affects driving skills, and offers tips and adjustments to help ensure her safety. Taking a class may also earn your mom a discount on her auto insurance. To locate a class, contact your local AAA (AAA.com) or AARP (AARP.org/drive, 888-227-7669). Most courses cost around $20 to $30 and can be taken online or in a classroom.
If, however, your assessment shows that your mom really does need to stop driving, you need to have a talk with her, but don't overdo it. If you begin with a dramatic outburst like "Mom, you're going to kill someone!" you're likely to trigger resistance. Start by simply expressing your concern for her safety.
For more tips on how to talk to your mom about this, the Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT AgeLab offer a variety of resources at TheHartford.com/lifetime - click on "Publications" on the menu bar, then on the "We Need To Talk" guidebook.
Refuses To Quit
If your mom refuses to quit, you have several options. One possible solution is to suggest a visit to her doctor who can give her a medical evaluation, and if warranted, prescribe that she stops driving.
If she still refuses, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles to see if they can help. Or, have an attorney discuss the potential financial and legal consequences of a crash or injury with your mom. If all else fails, you may have to take away her keys and set her up with alternate transportation.
Once your mom stops driving she's going to need other ways to get around, so help her create a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that she can call on.
To find out what transportation services are available in her area, contact the Rides in Sight (RidesInSight.org, 855-607-4337) and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to her area agency on aging for assistance.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.