smiling resident in the driver's seat

Posted: October 26, 2021

Senior Living

Is It Time For Your Aging Parent To Stop Driving?

As we age, driving can become more difficult, and some seniors may need to retire from driving before they want to. One of the hardest conversations you can have with an aging parent is about their driving. Your parent has spent a lifetime driving to their social connections, and activities of daily life. It is a huge change to suddenly have a big piece of independence taken away from them. Understanding the signs that it may be time and knowing how to have the conversation with them will help you support your aging parent through this difficult life transition.

How Aging Affects Driving

Before putting the brakes on your parent’s driving, you’ll want to watch for signs that their ability to drive safely is declining. If your parent struggles with dementia or has communication issues they may not be able to ask for directions or help in case of an emergency. Age does not determine when a parent should stop driving, the ability to drive safely does. However, aging may affect reaction time, motor skills, eyesight, memory, and hearing, which may affect their ability to drive. Some prescription drugs can also impair your parent’s ability to drive. Arthritis and stiff joints are common in older adults and can make it hard to look behind when changing lanes, shift a manual transmission, turn the steering wheel quickly, or brake safely.

Warning Signs It May Be Time To Retire From Driving

Here are a few warning signs of unsafe driving according to the AARP:

  • 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

When you notice your parent showing some of these signs, it’s important not to overreact or proclaim, “It’s time for you to hang up the keys!” Instead, kindly share what you have observed and ask them if they would like help with driving. Some seniors don’t feel comfortable driving, but they are hesitant to ask for help.

Is It Still Safe to Drive?

Tips on Having the Conversation

Having the conversation with an aging parent about their driving is not a one and done experience. The first conversation should take place long before it’s necessary. Start by asking your parent what they think you should be looking for as they age and continue to drive. Likely your parent will want you to say something to them if they are getting lost or having accidents.

Reassure your parent that your goal is to make sure they are safe and remain independent for as long as possible. Ask if they would like to learn how to use a driving service, like Uber or Lyft, or try the bus or light rail if it is close to their home. Learning how to navigate through life in a new way can be fun and help with cognitive function. Learn about staying healthy with the help of technology.

As you notice a decline in your parent’s ability to drive, start by asking them if they have any concerns about driving, or if they think it might be time to put a plan in place to retire from driving. You might start but limiting driving to only familiar places, avoiding nighttime driving and/or the freeway.

When it becomes necessary to have the conversation about retiring from all driving, you may not be the best person to broach the subject. Consider asking a spouse, peer, or even their doctor for help in having the conversation.

Helping Your Parent Remain Independent

Once your parent is no longer driving on their own, they may exhibit depressive symptoms. The loss of independence and decreased participation in activities of daily life and social engagements can make your parent feel isolated and lonely. It’s important to find alternative modes of transportation and socialization.

Putting together a team of family members, friends, or a home-care service that can help with your parent’s transportation needs is crucial to avoiding caregiver burnout. If your parent continues to decline and seems lonely, it might be time to consider assisted living.

Today’s assisted living communities, like Demaree Crossing, provide life enrichment activities that meet the social, intellectual, inspirational, and physical needs of residents. With a variety of services and amenities, including transportation, your parent can enjoy their day independently or in harmony with others, free from the cares of household maintenance.

Having the conversation with your parent about their driving, or about senior living, is difficult.

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