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Are You Ready to Talk With Your Elderly Loved One About Driving - II?

In our previous post, our blog discussed how the number of elderly drivers — meaning those age 65 and up — is going to reach record numbers here in the U.S. in the coming years, reaching upwards of 54 million as soon as 2020.

We also discussed the significance of this number from a safety standpoint as many of these aging baby boomers may soon be experiencing age-related medical conditions that can cause their driving abilities to decline, putting themselves and the innocent motorists with whom they share the road at risk of a serious motor vehicle accident.

In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion by examining the sensitive issue of how to get your elderly loved one to drive less or give up their keys.

When is the best time to speak with an elderly loved one about driving-related concerns?

Last time, our blog identified certain warning signs, which may indicate that it’s finally time to have a conversation with an elderly loved one about driving. When these signs appear with greater frequency or when the elderly loved one has a near miss, experts indicate it may be time to sit down for this talk.

Above all else, however, they advise people to be proactive about the matter, meaning, if possible, to avoid putting it off until there is no possible alternative but to take the keys away.

A simple conversation can result in a mutually acceptable resolution of introducing gradual restrictions. For instance, the parties might initially agree to reduce nighttime driving and rush hour driving at first, and adding more restrictions as the elderly loved one gets older, including limiting driving to certain well-known locations or set distances.

This approach, experts say, is not only respectful, but also puts both parties on the same page, such that it is that much easier to identify when the time comes for the elderly loved one to keep their car parked in the garage.

If an elderly loved one would probably be better off not driving but still lives an active lifestyle, are there viable transportation options that would enable them to get around?

Experts indicate that during the aforementioned conversation, it’s important for people to bring up the fact that driving restrictions or the loss of a car doesn’t mean that an elderly loved one will lose their independence. Indeed, there are many viable transportation alternatives, including public transportation, taxis, specialized shuttles, community transportation and, of course, family and friends.

What if an elderly loved one should clearly be taking precautions about their driving — or not driving at all — yet refuses to listen to reason?

In these difficult situations, experts advise people to consider enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member whose judgment the elderly loved one trusts, or talking with their physician who can frame the matter as being health-related and therefore more acceptable.

Another option includes penning a letter to a state licensing body such as the Tennessee Department of Safety outlining concerns about an elderly loved one and including a medical form signed by their physician. Another far more undesirable option — and a last resort — may be to simply take the keys or the car away.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What was your experience like?

Source: The Tennessee Department of Transportation, “Driver safety for Tennessee seniors: A resource for family members and caregivers,” July 2014