Tag Archives: taking the keys

When It’s Time to Take the Keys Away from Parents

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm and Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Growing old is a contact sport that is not recommended for the frail. Telling elderly parents that they no longer can drive may keep them and others safer, but almost always takes away both independence and control. So it’s a tough subject, even if there’s already been one or more minor car accidents involving a parent’s driving.

One of the common themes in many of these articles is to actually ride with your parents and notice if they have physical limitations or are slow to react to situations around them, keeping in mind that cues are usually more subtle than blatantly running a red light, although that may be one clue. Another theme is examining action tactics to figure out who actually approaches the person for the conversation and takes away the keys – suggestions include talking to both the doctor and a supervisor at the DMV to enlist them as allies.

There is an abundance of commentary on this subject to help you (and others who might need to) stage an intervention with your parents. Links below includes advice and tips about both discerning whether it’s time to have the conversation and more details about discussing no more driving and the potential aftermath.

  • Here is one website with a comprehensive list of resource articles and links to answer many questions folks might have about this scenario:

    Aging Parents Driving: Answer the common question ‘How can I tell if my elderly parent should no longer be driving?’ Learn how to take the keys away from an aging mother or father. Find out how to deal with stubborn aging parents who think their driving is safe. Know the common signs that your parent should no longer be driving and where to turn for assistance.”

  • This next article has a checklist that helps determine whether it’s really unsafe for a parent to drive. And I think it also had some good advice from an official at the AARP: “We use the term ‘Prepare with your head and talk with your heart.’”
  • Here’s an article that is a much lighter look at the serious subject at hand.
  • I thought that this next article was useful because Nebraska and Iowa, like California – where the author lives – have a lack of public transportation infrastructure, which is an even bigger problem in rural areas. As the story says, “It can be a tough thing to tell a parent. First, do some research. Second, choose your words carefully.”
  • This article uses checklists to explore the process of approaching a parent for this conversation. It also encourages empathy and challenges folks to consider what it would be like if they had to stop driving for even a short period of time and how their lives would be affected.
  • As a different approach, there are also support threads and websites out there that address an extremely large number of scenarios that come up with elderly parents, including the dilemma of taking away the keys. Here’s an example of one board with questions and answers that I thought was both respectful to the parents and also encouraged advocating for safety, even if that meant taking away the keys.

For further thought, even after having this particular conversation with your parents, keep in mind that someday someone will be having the conversation with you. Think about and reflect if you’d be ready – will you be receptive to a loved one’s concerns?

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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