How to Reasonably Take Away the Car Keys
By Jean Donahue
"You don't need to go
with me," was his demand.
"Oh, yes I do!" I
wasn't going to let him go anywhere without my being there to take
control if he couldn't manage the car.
He drove around the block
then back home. "That's all I wanted to know. I can still drive if
I need to," he said after parking.
That was the last time he
drove anywhere. He was satisfied with my providing the transportation
that he previously felt gave him independence. I was very relieved.
Facing the question of
whether your loved one should stop driving is very difficult. You know
they will feel like they are losing their independence, and you feel
that way also. There will be more pressure on you to get them to and
from the doctor's office and other places they want to go. How should
you handle talking to them about this volatile subject? Let's not go off
on a tangent without looking at a few things. This can be manageable.
Before you talk to them,
examine your reasons for believing they should not drive any longer. Is
it because of their age? Is it because you see signs that their vision,
hearing, physical fitness, attention and/or reaction time are not what
they should be? Have they changed their driving habits to compensate for
any decline in ability? Do they now have a disability or disease that
makes driving dangerous - to them or others?
If you think they are
simply too old to drive but they don't have any physical or mental
problems, it probably it is not time for them to stop driving. Age alone
is not a reason to limit driving.
If it is because of their
physical or mental health, ask yourself whether they have changed their
driving habits to compensate for those limitations? When an older person
realizes that their driving ability has declined they adjust their
driving habits to be as safe as possible. They might drive just short
distances, only drive to familiar places, avoid freeways and rush hour
traffic, leave early enough to get to their destination, stop driving at
night or never drive anywhere alone. The fact that they are making
changes in their driving habits indicates they are aware of their
situation and making the necessary adjustments to remain a safe driver.
You can help by enrolling them in a refresher course in driving.
When you determine they
need to make some changes in their driving habits or stop driving
completely, involve them in this important decision process that affects
their life and future. Sit them down and talk with them. Tell them that
you love them and want them to continue living an independent life as
long as possible. Explain the problems you see and why you are
concerned. At the very least, insist that they have a complete physical
examination to determine whether there might be a physical problem that
can be improved or corrected. At the end of the physical exam, ask the
doctor about driving. Let your loved one know that you understand that
they don't want to put themselves or other people in danger by their
Driving means independence
-- and no one wants to surrender their independence. Discuss options
available for them to remain independent after they stop driving. You
might be available to drive them. There are also public transportation
and other organizations that provide transportation for the elderly and
have special services and fares for the elderly. Check what's available
in your community. Stress to your parent that they will still be able to
do what they want to do. Quite often they will find that they still have
control of their lives and keep their independence when they use other
means of transportation. Explain that there is less stress all around if
they are driven.
If you are sure they should
give up driving immediately, insist that they quit immediately. No
discussion of maybe. It is as simple as that - take the keys away. If
your loved one refuses to stop, there are other approaches you may need
to use. Disable the car so it won't run (leave the headlights on all
night or disconnect the battery) or take the keys away and don't find
the "lost" keys. If your loved one calls a mechanic for
repairs after you have disabled the car, you have no choice but to move
the car from their reach or sell it.
I wish you luck, and
remember: you are not alone and this situation is manageable.