Having the Driving Discussion
Tough Conversations. Having the Discussion About Taking Away the Keys.
Though it’s a must-have conversation, talking with aging family members about taking away their car keys is very hard…on everyone. This is one discussion none of us are really trained or prepared to have. The reality is, though, that if we have aging loved ones in our life, we will most certainly face the time when this topic will need to be addressed. The good news is that we can learn from others.
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When should you start having the conversations about driving?
Experts from AARP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the medical field all agree that older drivers and families should discuss their driving together as they age, before serious events start to occur. Being alert to changes and warning signs is often when conversations begin to happen with more intensity and frequency.
How often do we need to have an older adult's driving assessed?
Many families rely on driving tests, at the time of renewing a drivers license, to get a better idea of their loved one’s performance behind the wheel. Many states have specific rules for older drivers. But, the rules vary by state. To learn what the rules are in your state, the Governors Highway Safety Association gives us an easy look-up tool, by state, which comes in handy before you have that discussion on driving.
How do we begin these really hard discussions?
While each family is unique, the practical tips experts from the NHTSA give us include:
- Show honor and respect. Remember, roles are not reveresed. Your parents are your parents and deserve respect.
- Always give options. There’s usually more than one way to get to the same place of agreement.
- Adult kids tend to over-worry about their aging parents. As hard as it might be to do, we must remember to give older adults their space. Let them catch up to your concerns, think about it and then be a part of deciding how best to handle the situation. Now, if there is an immediate decline or serious issue that is life threatening, of course the experts agree to intervene as you see fit.
- Having the discussion is a gradual process. Don’t expect it to be handled in a single conversation.
Watch this Short Video Featuring Families and Experts, Including Gail Sheehy, New York Times Bestselling Author on Caring for Older Adults
Tools & Resources at Your Fingertips
Watch AARP family issues expert Amy Goyer and “CBS This Morning” contributor Lee Woodruff talk about their personal experiences and tips for having the difficult conversation of stopping driving.
From the University of Calgary and the AMA Foundation for Traffic Safety, this video is one you could watch together with your family. Hear from doctors who specialize in older people (geriatrics) and family members.
Additional Valuable Tools & Resources
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