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Is It Time to Take Away the Car Keys?

Aging seniors view the ability to drive as one of the key factors to maintaining their independence. But with modern medicine increasing life expectancy, many seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely. Deteriorating health, vision and hearing impairments, and medication interactions can all contribute to unsafe driving conditions. You should encourage your aging parent to stop driving when you begin to fear they are a danger behind the wheel. These tips might be useful when it’s time to convince your aging parent or loved one to give up their car keys without much push-back or frustration.

Plan your discussion – Figure out how you will approach the subject ahead of time. You don’t want to start the conversation by coming on too strong, which might trigger a hostile reaction. Take into consideration how your parent may view this step as a major blow to their independence. Determine a way to ease their anxiety without being condescending or sounding judgmental. Approaching the subject with too much emotion can cause your parent to tune you out or dismiss your concerns entirely. Consider discussing the subject on a day when your parent feels relaxed and well rested.

Give reasons for concern – Your parent or loved one may not understand your apprehension about their driving. Express yourself with valid reasons, such as a recent incident or traffic violation. Work through your concern with follow-up questions that will get your loved one thinking about their safety and comfort behind the wheel. Effectively communicating your worries may lead your loved one to a perspective they hadn’t considered before.

Avoid interruptions – If the discussion turns into a heated argument, try to stop yourself from interrupting your loved one. Allow them the opportunity to develop and express their thoughts and emotions fully. Remember that no matter how practical the topic, it will also be an emotional one for your parent. Give them the chance to come to terms with their emotions. You should also ask for the same respect if your loved one tries to interrupt you as you speak. If the talk stalls without progress, agree to revisit it at another time once everyone has had enough time to think everything over.

Practice reflective listening – Your parent may see this discussion as a threat to their remaining independence, making it common for them to object to each of your points. You can use the situation to practice a strategy that seeks to understand the speaker’s idea and then reflects the idea back to the speaker to indicate the listener understands. This is known as “reflective listening”. This type of communication allows the listener to embrace the speaker’s perspective without agreeing to it with the goal of reducing tension while creating a conducive, problem-solving environment.

Explore other means of transportation – Many cities have senior transportation services available, depending on what county you live in. These services can help seniors get to their doctor’s appointments or social activities safely. A reputable home care agency might also be helpful since, in addition to personal care services, they also assist with transportation for activities like grocery shopping or picking up medications.

Encouraging your aging parent to stop driving will ease your concerns about their safety and well-being behind the wheel. However difficult, planning your discussion and practicing effective communication can help reduce tension and convince them it’s time to give up the keys.

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