One of the many difficult issues that caregivers face is dealing with elderly drivers…namely, how to determine if the person you are caring for is still able to operate a motor vehicle safely.
And if you make the determination that they cannot, how to take away the keys in a way that doesn’t demean your loved one but at the same time still allowing them to feel some sense of independence.
It’s a tall order to be sure because many proud seniors will not be willing to admit that they cannot operate their car safely anymore.
And while there are many elderly drivers in their 70’s, 80’s…even their 90’s who are safe drivers, the combined effects of reduced vision and hearing, as well as slower reflexes as we age, can render many into the category of unsafe driver.
So, how do you evaluate whether or not they are still physically capable of operating a car safely?
There certainly are telltale signs, such as getting into frequent fender benders, getting ticketed, becoming lost in familiar areas, losing the car in a parking lot on a regular basis, or locking the keys in the car [with the motor running].
But the only way to be sure would be for you to ask them to drive you to a familiar location. During that ride, pay very close attention to their driving habits, concentration on the road and how they react to the changing conditions during the drive.
Now, if you feel that you are risking your life by being in the car with them, then they are no longer able to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Now comes the tough part…convincing elderly drivers to give up the keys.
And this is no laughing matter. It will sting at their pride and it will also be very emotional. They will feel as though you are attacking them.
So you are going to need to sit down with them one-on-one (I don’t recommend a big group here because you don’t want to give the impression you are ganging up on them) and try and convey your fears and emotions about the situation.
Let them know that you are coming from the standpoint of caring about them and being concerned with their overall well-being. Point out some of the recent mishaps to them, not in a condescending way but from the standpoint of their safety and your own emotional well-being.
And then start to show them how it is possible for them to still live an independent life without their car. Here are some tips and guidelines:
- Many towns and counties have free services where they will transport seniors, free of charge. Make sure to check into these types of services before you have your sit-down with your loved one.
- Many supermarkets have services where they deliver the groceries, free of charge, such as Pea Pod.
- Work with your loved one to figure out the local bus schedule so that he does not have to rely on his own car. Most public buses offer a discount for seniors.
- Contact your local Office of the Aging to see if there are any transportation services that can assist you in this situation.
By doing your homework as a caregiver you can put the elderly driver in your life at ease that taking away the keys is not taking away their independence. And this is what both sides are after.