Safety is always the top priority when you are acting as a caregiver, so how do you know when it’s time for Mom and Dad to give up the car keys? This can be one of the most stressful decisions you will ever face. November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to show thanks to all who care for aging loved ones and to discuss topics that pertain to caregiving.
Driving ability is not always clearly defined by age, so as a caregiver, you must decide when your parent is no longer able to safely drive. Factors that may influence this decision include an aging parent’s physical health condition, mental status and/or medications. Many caregivers dread having this conversation with their parents. And while taking away the car keys may mean the end of a great deal of independence, it is important to do what is best for them and for others on the road. Here are some guidelines to help you through that tough conversation.
- Choose an appropriate time and place to talk. When you have to bring up a difficult subject such as this one, it’s best to have the conversation at home in private where everyone can speak freely. Discussing this sensitive issue in a public place such as a restaurant could be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Select a day or evening when you have plenty of time to dedicate to your conversation with them so you will not feel rushed.
- Write down what you are going to say. Since you know that it may be difficult to choose the right words, take some time to plan exactly what you are going to say. List your reasons so you can provide specific examples.
- Don’t have the conversation alone. If you have siblings or a spouse, consider having them present for the conversation so you can talk to your parents together about your concerns.
- Get advice from your parents’ doctor. The American Medical Association urges physicians to counsel their patients directly about driving and even ask for and accept car keys. If your parents do not accept your recommendation, they may accept the advice of their doctor.
- Schedule a comprehensive eye exam for Mom and Dad. If their ophthalmologist is concerned about their vision, he or she can discuss those concerns at the appointment. According to the AMA, an ophthalmologist can ask for keys as well, if necessary.
- Provide Mom and Dad with alternative transportation options. There are many options for getting around town, even without the use of a personal vehicle. With Uber, Lyft, Dial-a-Ride, and the help of family members, Mom and Dad can still get to their appointments and social outings. Close your conversation by emphasizing your support and willingness to help them maintain their independence as much as possible.
Having the car key conversation won’t be easy, so it is best to prepare as much as possible. The most desirable scenario would be for Mom and Dad to willingly hand you their car keys, but you can feel reassured knowing that you can lean on the support of their doctor and ophthalmologist as well. Being a caregiver is a gift of love, and it can be draining at times. Make sure to care for yourself as well. Happy National Caregivers Month!