When to take the keys from aging parents
By Diane Rita
Figuring out when it’s time for a loved one to stop driving is a challenge many families face. While you don’t want to hurt your parents' feelings by taking away their car keys—and independence—you also don’t want to see them in harm’s way.
With winter and slick roads quickly approaching, many people find themselves worrying more frequently about their parents’ safety as they continue to drive. So, how do you know when it’s time to intervene? Griswold Home Care of Passaic, Sussex & Morris County offers some tips for family members:
Know the dangers. Having healthy reflexes and eyesight are an important part of safe driving, especially when a driver must make snap decisions during an unexpected situation. When debris blows on to the road or someone makes an unanticipated turn, the difference between a close call and total disaster is often less than two seconds. Age only makes vision and reaction time worse, which is why 80-year-old drivers get into as many accidents as 18-year-old drivers, according to a study by Consumer Reports.
Look for warning signs. Fortunately, it’s easy to spot many of the signs that it’s time for someone to quit driving. If you notice that your loved one becomes easily distracted, has trouble staying in the correct lane, drives too fast or too slowly, or starts hitting curbs frequently, it may be time to discuss other means of transportation. If you don’t spend much time in the car with your parents, you can check for other noticeable signs, such as scrapes or dents in the car.
Be Thoughtful of the Life Change. Giving up driving can lead to emotional, physical, and practical concerns about how to get around. Seniors are already at-risk for isolation and depression, and taking away their ability to leave the house without help may increase that risk. While having family members or friends drive for them is one solution, many people feel too guilty or embarrassed to ask, especially if they want to go out on a whim. Fortunately, services like Lyft or Uber can help provide safe transportation on demand, and in-home caregivers often provide transportation as well.
Rely on Judgement, Not the Law. Most states don’t require older drivers to undergo additional testing, and legal authorities can’t take away one’s right to drive until he or she has actually done harm, leaving families to work out this issue themselves. Use your best judgement when making this decision. While this is a tough conversation to have with your loved one, ignoring the signs can be dangerous.
For more information, visit https://www.griswoldhomecare.com/passaic-sussex-morris-county/ or call (973) 453-3652.
Editor's Note: Diane Rita is the director of Griswold Home Care of Passaic, Sussex & Morris County.