Around the Offices: September 14, 2016


How and When to Stop an Elderly Parent from Driving

by L. Kaye DeSellms Dent

It’s tempting to put off difficult conversations, but it can also be dangerous. Talking to an elderly parent about when it’s time to stop driving is not a fun conversation, but sit down and have it sooner rather than later. Your parent’s safety and the safety of others is at stake. According to the CDC, “in 2012, more than 5,560 older adults were killed and more than 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This amounts to 15 older adults killed and 586 injured in crashes on average every day.
WHO: If your parent has a power of Attorney in Place, the agent appointed by that document may be the person to start the conversation. Alternatively, a trustee of a trust, a trusted family friend (one more the parent’s age?) could be a good strategy. Everyone is different, so consider how your parent might react and whom he trusts. Ask for help from your siblings and maybe his. Once you determine who should be the bearer of what is likely to be seen as bad news, think about what should be said.
WHAT: Do plan ahead. Index cards and practice are not a bad idea. “Dad, you asked me to handle finances and related matters for you if you were no longer able. Apparently you trust me, so I hope you trust me enough that I can tell you it may be time to retire your car keys.” It’s not a message you can convey in a brief sentence, so practice can make it easier. Also be certain to have documentation at hand. This might be medical records (if you have access), a list of medications (with side effects) and illnesses, a list of “close calls” (even those not involving driving), anything that proves your point and more than anecdotal. Don’t forget to have a list of delivery and public transportation options handy, along with a list of willing family and friend “chauffeurs.”
WHEN: Timing is everything. Don’t “pounce” on mom at the end of the day when her pain medication is wearing off or first thing in the morning if she’s groggy then. Pick a time of day when she feels alert, rested, and at her best, so she doesn’t feel (as) defenseless and will also be open and honest with you. The last thing you need is a fight or walking away thinking you have an agreement but finding out the next day she was placating you to get you to leave so she could watch her show, take a nap, or just get you to go away.
WHERE: Again, consider how your parent is going to react and plan accordingly. Will he feel defensive if approached at home or while “trapped” in a car with you? Will he be more receptive to a casual conversation while on a walk or sitting outside? Avoid too public a location.
HOW: Don’t forget to ask for help in developing your “script.” There are internet materials and books on the topic, including How to Say It to Seniors, by David Solie. As a last resort, you can inquire with your parent’s physician or directly with the licensing agency about your concerns.
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