One memory many people have is of their first car. They remember what it was, how it drove, and the freedom they felt the first time they drove it. Our ability to drive is linked to a feeling of independence. So, talking with an aging loved one – whether it’s your parent, spouse, or other relation – about their driving is understandably a challenging conversation to have.
Driving safety is a major issue as people age, and an area where you might encounter resistance when you try to talk with your aging loved one about it. As we age, our vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can impact one’s ability to drive, perhaps even making it unsafe for them or other drivers. Talking with an aging loved one about limiting or stopping driving is made even harder because the issue of driving isn’t tied to a person’s age after they get their initial driver’s license, but to their ability. Which, of course, your parent, spouse, or other relation may see their ability differently from how you see it. Plus, they most likely have decades of driving experience behind them.
When deciding if you need to talk with your aging loved one about their driving, AARP has several examples of unsafe driving actions you can take into consideration when trying to determine if your loved one is putting themselves or other drivers at risk. Some warning signs of unsafe driving include:
- Delayed response to unexpected situations.
- Becoming easily distracted while driving.
- Decrease in confidence while driving.
- Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic.
- Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up.
- Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage, or mailbox.
- Having frequent close calls.
- Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions.
If these sound like incidents your loved one has when they’re driving, it might be time to address the issue of driving with them.
Once you have decided you need to talk with your aging loved one about their driving there is some homework you should do before this difficult conversation. These conversations can be even harder if you are talking with your aging parents about limiting or stopping driving, so preparation is key.
The conversation around limiting or stopping driving is a tough one. There are many emotions tied to one’s ability to drive and it’s expected that your loved one could be resistant. Your aging parent, spouse, or other relation may feel the loss of independence. It’s important to provide options and examples of how they will still be able to participate in activities they do outside of their home now. As your loved one has a lifetime of driving experience behind them, this will be a change for them. With the right preparation and information, you’ll be able to help them see that this conversation comes from a place of love and concern for them.