How to Stop an Elderly Parent From Driving


How do you persuade an elderly parent that it’s time to stop driving? The do-it-yourself approach that many families apply to unsafe driving by a relative — hiding the keys, for example — often fails, said Paula Taliaferro, education consultant for the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. People with cognitive impairments might lack the insight to recognize the danger in their driving, she said. They see the inability to drive as a threat to their independence. “People grieve the loss of driving privileges,” she said. “It’s about freedom.” At 91, Blacklick resident Wanda Rogers still drives to senior centers, exercise classes, and card games several times a week. Rogers, who has limited sight in one eye because of macular degeneration (a disease of the retina), said her daughter sometimes urges her to stop driving, but Rogers is reluctant. She has put limits on herself: She no longer drives at night or on freeways, for example. Such self-imposed restrictions, Taliaferro said, are common among senior citizens. Just because a person is elderly doesn’t mean he’s an incompetent driver, she said.

When the evidence is there, though, it’s time for a conversation. Instead of starting with “You shouldn’t be driving,” Taliaferro said, discuss what you’re seeing that alarms you: dents in the car, failure to yield at stop signs, inability to find familiar locations. She also suggested checking the odometer: High mileage might indicate that the driver is getting lost. Even then, Taliaferro said, pride can get in the way of a parent admitting that he is less capable than he once was. If there is a way to help the driver save face, she said, try that approach.

Source/more: Columbus (OH) Dispatch

David wingate is an elder law attorney in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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