As people age, they sometimes lose the ability to do things they once were able to do with ease. Driving can be one of those things. It's often hard for senior citizens to admit when they can no longer drive. They may feel as though giving up driving is like giving up their independence. It is difficult to tell someone you know and care about that their driving may not be up to par. Unfortunately, while difficult, it may become a necessary and unavoidable task.
There are many ways to initiate a discussion about driving with an elderly person that you are close to or a caregiver for. No matter which method is chosen, it should be done as delicately as possible, so as not to place blame on the senior citizen or offend them. Some may wish to casually bring up the topic. Others may wish to call a family meeting or schedule a doctor appointment, and allow the doctor to make the recommendation.
If you are the bearer of news, there are a few things you can do to help ease the situation. At the same time, make sure that the older driver you are talking to takes you seriously. An example of a bad thing to say would be "Mom, you are driving really badly lately. You shouldn't be driving anymore." In this scenario, the mother could be easily upset or offended, which could have the opposite effect of what you are looking for.
An example of a better way to approach the situation might be: "Mom, did you know that the new medication you're taking has recently been in the news for effecting driving skills? Have you noticed anything?" In the second scenario, the caregiver is informing the senior without placing any blame while expressing that there could be a problem. Also, the question leaves room for the senior citizen driver to think about the situation and a possible solution.
If this type of discussion is not leading anywhere, you or another family member may need to be more direct and provide recent examples to the older driver. One scenario could start with "Dad, that was pretty scary the other day when you ran that traffic light at that busy intersection, wasn't it? Do you think it's time for a check up with the eye doctor? I know it's hard for me to see those lights whenever I need new glasses." Statements like this should lead into discussing the issue further with the senior.
If the issue is still being avoided or denied, a senior's caregiver can also try making more blunt statements, such as "You know, I've been real nervous when I ride in the car with you lately, and I'm afraid to let the kids go anywhere when you're driving. You seem to be having a little trouble with driving, and I'm afraid for your safety and the safety of others. What do you think we should do to change that?"
It is also a good idea to provide a variety of resources during the discussion. Many websites, such as AAA and AARP provide downloadable pamphlets or files. The solution may not always lie in taking away the keys or having the license revoked. With a little help from the right people and resources, some drivers can re-sharpen the skills they are struggling with. Sometimes all it takes is a pair of glasses or a specialty driving course. Ultimately, the main goal is to get the older driver to realize there are some problems with their driving skills and improve those skills or stop driving altogether. To allow someone who cannot drive properly to remain on the road is not fair to that person or others.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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