One of the most difficult situations that parents and children can face is the parents’ loss of independence as they age. It can be extremely difficult for aging parents to give control of any part of their lives over to another person, especially their child. The day when Mom or Dad must give up driving is often one of the hardest days for everyone, especially if the parent was very independent before. If you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of asking Mom or Dad to stop driving, there are some things to do to make it easier.
First of all, speak frankly to your parent, adult to adult. Don’t patronize your parent or treat him or her like a child. Giving up the ability to drive will most likely make him or her feel enough like a child as it is, without you taking on a parenting tone during your discussion. Let your parent know how concerned you are and why. Let him or her know that you are willing and able to act as personal driver to errands and appointments.
Next, you should never gang up on your parent when asking him or her to stop driving. If you have other siblings, you should work together and designate one person to speak to your parent. Don’t involve other family members or your parent’s doctor in the discussion all at one time. If your parent walks into the discussion facing multiple people, he or she will feel outnumbered and will naturally become quite defensive. This will make the conversation much harder for everyone involved.
Tailor your discussion to your specific parent. For example, if your parents worked hard for his or her whole life and owns a home, its furnishings and everything in it free and clear, they will be very proud of that fact Use this fact. Point out that if your parent was in a car accident, the other person could very well sue him or her and take away everything they worked so hard to obtain. You can also point out how devastated you would be if he or she were to die in a car accident that was caused by the medical condition that is causing him or her to need to stop driving.
If you have already tried discussing this issue with your parent, and he or she balks at giving up the car keys, you may have to push the issue a bit further. If your parent truly should not be driving but a gentle approach has not worked, you may then consider a meeting with all your siblings together. Express that you are all concerned and you want your parent to know that each of you loves him or her and is worried about his or her safety.
You can try tailoring a harsher discussion to your specific parent. If your parent has a favorite grandchild, ask him or her to imagine the pain if that grandchild were killed in a car accident that was caused by someone who shouldn’t have been driving. You can also ask your parent to imagine how he or she would feel if the situation was reversed and it was your parent who caused the death of someone else’s grandchild.
If neither a gentle approach nor a tough love approach has worked, your next step is to involve your parent’s physician. In many states, a physician can order an occupational therapy consult which will cause a driving skills test. If the parent does not pass the test, the therapist and/or physician will report that fact to the local DMV. The DMV will then notify the parent that the driver’s license is suspended.
You may also call your state’s DMV or Driver Licensing Bureau yourself to express your concerns about your parent’s diminishing ability to drive safely. Depending on state regulations and your parent’s specific condition, it may actually be illegal for him or her to be driving anyway. Even if the DMV only sends a letter of concern to your parent, the knowledge that the DMV is aware of the situation may be enough to convince him or her to stay off the road.
Convincing Mom or Dad to give up the car keys can be stressful at best and nearly impossible at worst. Try to empathize with how your parent feels about giving up the freedom and independence of driving, and your discussion is more likely to be successful. Also remember that you may be saving your parent’s or someone else’s life, which is more important than the ability to drive any day.
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