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How to Take the Car Keys Away from Elderly Parents

Man Holding Car Keys

In most families, there will come a time to discuss when to take the car keys away from an aging parent. Family caregivers may begin to fear that their loved one is no longer safe behind the wheel or that they are endangering others by continuing to drive. This is often a tough but necessary conversation. Ignoring warning signs could lead to a disaster.

But when the decision is made to stop a parent from driving, how should you have that talk? As it turns out, there is a right way to have this conversation.

Whether a parent is ready to retire their car keys, remember that there are other ways to keep seniors safe. One of the easiest and most accessible is to invest in a medical alert system. These devices, which can be portable or fixed in a single space within the home, allow seniors to access care in the case of an emergency. If you’re having a conversation about elderly driving, this could be a good opportunity to discuss medical alert systems. Talk to your aging parent about incorporating a medical alert system into their life.

How to Convince Dad to Stop Driving

The decision to ask a parent to stop driving is difficult, but for older adults, the loss of this independence can be traumatic. Cars and driving can provide self-confidence and self-reliance, so children of aging parents should understand the full effect of their request. Once the decision is made, however, here’s how to have the conversation.

  • Be candid. Don’t approach this subject as though a conclusion has already been made. Instead, plan to discuss why you think they should not continue driving, taking care to point out how accidents can pose a danger to others on the road. Discuss impaired vision, medication side effects, any limiting physical or mental health conditions, and, if they have occurred, a history of increased accidents or traffic citations.
  • Ask for help. Some parents may not be ready to hear this request from a child. If this is the case, consider working with their doctor, an optometrist, or an elder law attorney. These professionals can provide much-needed perspective. Importantly, doctors may be able to provide information regarding physical and mental fitness, which they can then use to communicate the scope of potential danger.
  • If you can, avoid an immediate cut-off. Do what you can to limit driving in small ways over time. This can help ease the conversation and provide some context to senior parents. For example, rather than taking the keys away entirely, try talking to your parent about only driving within your town’s limits, or only on trips less than 20 miles each way. By slowly restricting a parent’s driving range, they have the opportunity to get accustomed to a new lifestyle.

Having Hard Conversations About a Parent’s Health

Older Gentleman Driving Car

Sitting down to talk about taking the keys away can be tough for children and parents, but it can also provide an opportunity to reflect on a senior’s health. If you’re worried about your aging parent’s independence, consider talking to them about using a medical alert system. These devices provide comfort and peace of mind, regardless of whether your parent continues to drive through old age. If you’re worried about budgeting, remember that medical alert systems from Alert1 are priced more affordably than Life Alert’s® costs, making them an accessible option.